Northstream Predicts Competitive and Challenging 2013 for Mobile Industry

in press-release, Northstream, Small Cell, LTE

Stockholm, Sweden, 30th November 2012 – Northstream, the strategic wireless business consultancy, today announced its predictions for the mobile telecoms space in 2013. Next year will see operators requiring less small cells, thanks to LTE’s improved indoor coverage, and the market power of device vendors shaping the evolution of mobile R&D. Northstream expects European regulators to increasingly accept operator consolidation, and network sharing, in 2013 in order to boost the market. We also predict Outsourcing and Managed Services to become more focused on promoting vendors to actively address operator network OPEX as a whole.

“2012 saw LTE deployments continue at pace and the UK finally join the party,” said Bengt Nordström, CEO of Northstream. “Expect the deployments of LTE to continue unabated in 2013 as competition in the marketplace intensifies. Operators are going to face a rising rivalry from Microsoft, and IT players, in the enterprise communications market. They will also have to cope with the snowballing market power of device vendors – and their potential to deviate mobile R&D towards devices and away from networks”.

1. Advent of Device sector dominance to impact evolution of mobile industry R&D

The rise of smartphones is placing the industry on a path to Apple and Samsung achieving enough market power to drive and finance a bigger portion of industry innovation, R&D and standardisation efforts. This could result in a lack of open standards, interoperability issues and a smaller amount of harmonised solutions. Operators and infrastructure vendors need to watch out.

2. Regulators to allow increased operator consolidation – and save LTE in Europe

Northstream expects European regulators to increasingly accept operator consolidation and network sharing in 2013 in order to better facilitate market dynamics, and growth, for both larger and smaller players. This will be the catalyst to revitalise the European market, boost network investments moving forward and allow regained competiveness and sustainability

3. The ‘small cell debate’ is ended by LTE roll-out (with some support from WiFi)

Northstream predicts that operators deploying LTE will be less reliant on small cells than their 3G deployments. Spectrum allocated to LTE is a combination of sub 1GHz (700 or 800MHz) and higher bands that enables better delivery of mobile broadband indoors. However, operators will turn to WiFi to fill gaps in coverage for in-building heavy traffic generators such as tablets and data modems.

4. Managed Services is dead, long live Managed Services

Outsourcing and Managed Services have long been focused around direct OPEX savings. Northstream believes this will radically change and forecasts that operators and vendors will better define business models and operational processes in 2013 that promote vendors to actively address operator network OPEX as a whole. This includes legacy cost structures and maintaining (or improving) network quality and customer experience. 

5. Microsoft takes the lead for new generation operators

Microsoft has leveraged its large enterprise footprint, and Windows and Office software with VoIP and collaboration solutions into a UC solution. Soon Microsoft will add mobile VoIP capabilities and attack the enterprise communications market – one of the last mobile operator strongholds. This could reduce operators to simply enterprise data connectivity providers. Microsoft, and fellow IT players, will pose serious challenge to the offerings of operators. In 2013 we’ll see varying degrees of responses from operators as they try to cling to power and relationships with enterprise customers.

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