Director of Studies, "Telecom Strategies" Business Unit, IDATE DigiWorld
Customer experience draws primarily on customers’ network usage and their perceived quality, as well as their interaction with the telco’s different services (sales, support and administrative), whatever the communication channel.
Customer Experience Management, or CEM, is the term used for the programmes implemented to improve customer experience.
A complex but essential undertaking
In what is now a saturated market, it is essential that operators pay heed to customer experience if they are to retain the loyalty of their subscribers. Yet telcos have fallen behind their counterparts in other sectors, particularly OTT players.
A sophisticated CEM strategy relies on the consolidation of all customer information, not just subscription data and historical contact with the operator, but also network usage, geolocation and even comments posted on forums. Such a complex undertaking is far from being implemented by telcos, who sometimes struggle to reconcile their mixed and mobile databases. Verizon is a typical example of a company with organisational silos, whose fixed and mobile operations are two clearly separate entities.
Customer experience also implies a change in corporate culture, with each employee is required to serve the customer. This implies a sizable managerial undertaking and the involvement of senior management is therefore essential.
Customer experience incorporates increasingly cutting-edge technologies
The digitisation of communication channels is gathering momentum, including stores (interactive kiosks, click & collect services) and call centres (agents communicating with customers via chats or messaging).
In order to minimise their costs, operators are installing increasingly intelligent automated solutions. Websites host virtual agents based on artificial intelligence, while call centres use interactive voice servers with speech recognition technology. Telcos can also draw on the technological tools developed by the Internet giants: data analytics, predictive analytics, profiling, event processing and biometric authentication, as well as artificial intelligence, chatbots, machine learning and even blockchain.
Yet the human aspect remains an essential, differentiating factor
Websites offer chat options and social networks are developing in this area. User forums provide an ideal intermediate solution, offering the human aspect but less costly.
Faced with competition from low-cost operators, the big telcos are taking their stores more upmarket with a focus on customer experience, in an effort to enhance customer loyalty and expand the range of subscriber services, particularly connected objects.
Opportunities for innovation: social media, mobile and personalised services
Social networks also represent a new means of communication between operator and subscriber. They offer a wealth of information that can be used to match the best message and solution to each individual customer.
While telcos are clearly aware that mobile is an essential link between operator and subscriber, the applications rolled out so far are seeing only limited success. Mobile represents a considerable opportunity in terms of innovation for telcos, who can combine usage and geolocation data to offer solutions that are both personalised and contextual, and even to position themselves as trusted third parties.
The key challenge of CEM is to incorporate data from customers’ various interactions with the operator and their social networks. Operators can use analytics tools to offer personalised solutions to customers, anticipating and meeting their needs as they gradually wind down the traditional communication channels (which are more costly). In particular, the fine-tuning of contextual solutions based on usage (Vodafone targeting subscribers going skiing abroad, for example) is still a relatively untapped growth outlet.
This process could also be used for other ends: optimising network deployment by closely analysing network usage or evaluating customer experience data (incorporating geolocation data in particular), which could then be sold to third parties.
Delve deeper about Telecom Customer Experience Management with the following IDATE DigiWorld market report
Didier Pouillot & Sophie Lubrano , IDATE DigiWorld
Faced with the challenge of digitising government operations, the economy and everyday life, Africa is innovating with singular development models that make use of the latest technologies.
Africa has a number of singular features that have carried over into an original development model. First, the weak purchasing power in most countries has driven the rise of a low-cost market, both for services and mobile handsets, primarily with a prepaid model. The transition to data services could follow the same path, dominated by low-end plans billed based on data volume. Further down the road, Africa’s growing middle class will make it possible to move beyond the low-cost approach and foster the development of value-added products.
The region has also managed to capitalise on the latest technologies, leapfrogging over several stages of development, starting with the use of wireless technologies for accessing the Web. The continent should also benefit eventually from upcoming innovations such as constellations (drones, balloons, micro–satellites) to bring access to rural areas. Lastly, Africa has been a seedbed of innovations in services, in the financial arena (e.g. the well-known success of e-money), health, farming and education. Also noteworthy is the development of entertainment services, with well established film and TV production hubs and the more recent video game hubs.
Africa’s digital industry is expanding, with the creation of technology hubs, incubators for start-ups, regional trade and collaboration networks, bolstered by the support of local governments and global digital industry leaders.
DELVE DEEPER WITH THE FOLLOWING IDATE DIGIWORLD MARKET REPORTS
World Telecom Services Market: Trends & Analyses, July to December 2015 – Jan. 2016
World LTE market & MBB spectrum: Markets at June 2015 & Forecasts to 2019
World FTTx market: Markets at December 2015 & Forecasts to 2020 – Jul. 2016
Telco investment challenges: CapEx dynamics – Dec. 2015
Frédéric Pujol, Head of the mobile services, IDATE DigiWorld
Europe’s future society and economy will rely heavily on 5G infrastructure. The impact will go far beyond existing wireless access networks, with the of having faster communication services that are available everywhere, all the time.
5G is a real opportunity for the European ICT sector, which is already well positioned in the global R&D race. 5G technologies will be adopted and deployed globally in line with the needs of developed and emerging markets.
While many of the technical aspects attached to 5G are scaling up globally, requirements analysis for key vertical sectors is progressing rapidly. The emergence and deployment of 5G technology is likely to trigger innovation in the industry, thus leveraging sustainable societal change.
There is a vision for 5G to become a stakeholder-driven, holistic ecosystem for technical and business innovation, integrating networking, computing and storage resources into one programmable and unified infrastructure. In addition, thanks to real-time and larger traffic volume capabilities, 5G is expected to enable the transport of software to the data rather than the other way round, i.e. executing software on the device where the data are produced instead of sending all data to a centralised datacentre – thereby paving the way for new opportunities in the cloud computing market, where European companies could gain a significant market share.
In the long run, it will not be enough to explore the requirements of vertical industries, and a proper analysis will also need to be conducted of market trends to sense new, upcoming technology, especially from companies outside the industrial mainstream. Potentially disruptive technologies typically go widely undetected by the established industry, but clearly have a real potential to become engines of significant technical change and innovation. Unanticipated 5G features are likely to emerge from future technological, legal, societal and socio-economic considerations
DELVE DEEPER WITH THE FOLLOWING IDATE DIGIWORLD MARKET REPORTS
World LTE market & MBB spectrum: Markets at June 2015 & Forecasts to 2019 Players - Technologies - CapEx – Pricing – Dec. 2015
Key outcomes from WRC-15: Four years to pave the way for the future of telecoms, Feb. 2016
Blockchain & Financial market transformation: The challenges and opportunities of FinTech for the financial industry
Senior Consultant, IDATE DigiWorld
Banking has long represented a big market for IT and digital technologies. It is probably one of the sectors that has invested the most in information technologies over time, for retail banking activities, and more recently for risk control systems to ensure compliance with banking and finance regulations.
More recently, however, digital innovation in this sector has been overtaken by the explosion of FinTech. Hundreds of start-ups have demonstrated the potential to innovate and transform the banking and finance as we know it. In light of recent events, several areas of innovation have emerged from the development of FinTech, either in competition or partnership with veteran banking industry players.
Every corner of the financial sector is affected, from payment solutions, to credit and lending activities faced with crowdsourced alternatives, the use of blockchains and cryptocurrency-based solutions, to the emergence of high frequency trading, big data analysis solutions and AI roboadvisors.
These technologies are disrupting the finance ecosystem, and paving the way for new players, and new business models. They also open up opportunities for the industry to transform itself and become more efficient and profitable.
DELVE DEEPER WITH THE FOLLOWING IDATE DIGIWORLD MARKET REPORTS
Blockchain, Oct. 2016
Mobile Payment: The state of the industry, amid new stakes, Apr. 2016
The global revenues from telecom services will grow from 1,174 billion EUR in 2015 to 1,293 billion EUR in 2020
Head of Strategies Telecoms Business Unit , IDATE DigiWorld
With revenues from mobile services as principal growth engine, which will grow by 14% between 2015 and 2020 (+2.8% per year on average), and reaching 814 billion EUR in 2020.
With global penetration more than 100% in 2014, subscriber growth is expected to gradually slow down over the next few years. The number of fixed Internet subscribers is increasing at roughly the same pace, but customer numbers are eight times smaller. The one billion mark is not expected to be reached before 2020 and traditional landlines continue to loose ground as VoIP and mobile gain ground.
The spread of broadband
the number of fixed broadband subscribers is expected to reach 1 billion worldwide by the end of 2019. The number of LTE customers is shooting up, with services based on carrier aggregation no longer being limited to just the more developed countries.
Three major factors will play in favour of the spread of broadband:
• The success of bundled offers (fixed telephony, VoIP, TV, mobile telephony) and the appetite for video applications.
• The investment of telecom operators in the migration of their infrastructures to mobile or fixed broadband.
• The comfort provided by ultra-fast mobile broadband and the new uses it enables.
Revenue from telecom services
The global revenues from telecom services will grow from 1,174 billion EUR in 2015 to 1,293 billion EUR in 2020, representing an average annual growth of 2.0%.
• Revenues from mobile services will grow by 14% between 2015 and 2020 (+2.8% per year on average), reaching 814 billion EUR in 2020.
• Revenues associated with data transmission and Internet will grow more strongly (+21% between 2015 and 2020, i.e. +4.3% per year on average), to reach 344 billion EUR in 2020.
• Revenues from fixed telephony will continue to decline significantly (-23% between 2015 and 2020, i.e. a decline of 4.6% per year on average), to be at 135 billion EUR in 2020..
Disparate performances from operators in emerging countries
Top telcos in emerging countries continue to suffer from a sudden halt in value growth. China’s three operators in particular have seen virtually no progress: China Unicom actually reported a 3% drop in revenue. Their margins are come in line with industry standards: between 30% and 40% of EBITDA margins.
Several of these operators are actively engaged in an international expansion into Africa and Latin America, but also into advanced markets, particularly in Europe.
European operators starting incrementally to get back on track
Telcos in Europe are back on a growth path. If most of the top carriers are still reporting decreasing revenue, some are seeing an increase, notably Deutsche Telekom, Telenor and to a lesser extent Orange, thanks to their international operations. Their spending on LTE and superfast fixed access networks (FTTx) has not yet paid off and helped to bolster ARPU.
Debate over the crucial role that trust will play in the digital economy’s future
The 38th annual DigiWorld Summit will run from 15 – 17 November 2016, and have as its central theme: The Internet of Trust. It will be an opportunity to engage in a meaningful international debate over digital trust issues – starting with security and privacy – which have become major sources of concern for all of the ecosystem’s stakeholders.
As the number of reported cyber-attacks worldwide is growing by close to 40% a year, we expect that upcoming stages in digital technologies’ evolution will only amplify the phenomenon. And this to such an extent that any future scenario is possible: from a continuation of the current chaos to a breakdown in trust that would lead to the construction of a new digital economy, which will no doubt differ in many respects from the one we know today.=
• Are we reaching a tolerance threshold for online trust?
• How can veteran digital industry players (equipment suppliers, telcos, IT companies) capitalise on the current climate?
• Are verticals threatened by the situation or, on the contrary, on the winning side of trust and security issues?
• Do we need a new regulatory framework to govern, or reassure, market players and consumers?
> Including the 120 speakers on this edition:
• Eva BERNEKE, CEO, KMD
• Anne BOUVEROT, CEO, Morpho
• Isabelle FALQUE-PIERROTIN, Chairwoman, CNIL
• Pierre, CHAPPAZ, Co-founder & Executive Chairman, Teads
• Didier LAMOUCHE, President & CEO, Oberthur
• Joseph LUBIN, Founder & CEO, ConsenSys, Co-Founder Ethereum
• Carlos LOPEZ BLANCO, Global Head, Public and Regulatory Affairs, Telefónica
• Stéphane RICHARD, Chairman & CEO, Orange
• Corrado SCIOLLA, President Europe, BT Global Services
• Nicolas SEKKAKI, CEO France, IBM
Choosing the theme for the 2016 DigiWorld Summit came about quite naturally. The vast majority of IDATE DigiWorld were eager to tackle the topic of trust.
For some time now, trust has been recognised as a vital ingredient in the success of a brand, an economy or a society. This is all the more true in a world being transformed by digital innovation. In its scenarios for 2025, IDATE DigiWorld underscored that trust was one of the key variables in tomorrow’s digital ecosystem. To shore up this belief, we need only look at some recent headlines:
• the cyberattacks against telcos, TV networks and government agencies,
• the legal wrangles between Apple and WhatsApp and government authorities wanting access to the encryption key for the devices or messages;
• the very drawn out European Union negotiations over new data protection rules;
• the end of the Safe Harbor transatlantic agreement and ensuing debates over the new Privacy Shield;
• questions over the dangers surrounding connected/driverless cars, and the growing ubiquity of the IoT in general;
• the ad–blocking phenomenon;
• questions over what impact multiple FinTech solutions will have on the soundness of the banking system, and blockchain’s ability to replace today’s trusted third parties;
So trust is a focal point for telcos, cloud computing companies, Internet giants, start–ups, governments and regulators, but also for every economic sector across the board, not to mention consumers and citizens.
And, as always, acknowledging risk must not prevent us from also analysing opportunities, in terms of innovation, differentiation strategies and the competitive advantages available to many market players.
Once again this year, the vital meeting place that this international conference has become, will include plenary sessions that will provide a springboard for a series of high–level specialty forums. These forums are an opportunity to delve deeper into the main trends we expect to see in mobile networks with the advent of 5G, ultrafast broadband, the Internet of Things, the TV market’s transformation in Europe, FinTech, video games, the digital promise in Africa and what makes a smart city.
A unique international forum for debate and networking
|> DigiWorld Week
A week devoted to understanding what makes our new digital world tick (12 – 20 November 2016)
|> The DigiWorld Awards
Recognising the best digital start-ups created by French entrepreneurs abroad
Key facts & figures
Europe’s trailblazing conference on the digital economy
The DigiWorld Summit is an annual event organised and hosted by IDATE experts, with the support of DigiWorld Institute members. Every year it holds ultra high-level international debates on the core issues shaping the digital economy, with the finest speakers and industry insiders.
• Participants: 1,200 participants at the DigiWorld Summit and more than 5,000 at DigiWorld Week
• Speakers: 120 speakers from around the world; 400 at DigiWorld Week
• Partners and sponsors: over 100 partners and sponsors (businesses, public sector, media…)
• Social media: 15,000 tweets (trending topics) and 2,000 live followers
For more information, visit our website: www.digiworldsummit.com
Director of Studies, IDATE DigiWorld Contact
European telecom services market (nearly +€300m YoY 2016/2015) seems bound for a modest recovery after revenues had fallen every year since 2008. All the same, operators in both fixed and mobile arenas will continue to be motivated to seek further market consolidation.
Given the fragmented market, economies of scale are very low and competition, notably on prices, is extremely intense. Low margins are undermining operators’ capacity to invest in upgrading their infrastructure.
In addition, the lines between fixed and mobile markets are blurring. Much of the traffic generated by mobile devices is channeled through fixed networks, while mobile networks need ever more fibre in the backhaul to handle growing traffic flows. Convergence has also become a commercial reality.
After the European Commission had given its go-ahead to the proposed mobile mergers in Austria, Germany and Ireland, the way seemed clear for further in-market consolidation.
That outlook has changed quite significantly with Margrethe Vestager becoming head of DG Competition: the bar for obtaining approval for in-market transactions seems noticeably higher since. Today, it seems certain the EC will insist on structural measures leading to the entry of a fourth MNO in order to approve a 4-to-3 merger.
Even if the road towards more consolidation in the mobile sector was blocked and the potential for fixed-mobile convergence exhausted, it does not follow that the industry structure will stay unchanged. There could be more transactions of limited size, as in the move of the Italian energy group Enel to acquire Metroweb and invest 4 billion EUR in FTTH infrastructure. Cross-border consolidation could be another option. Instead of integrating horizontally, telcos could also focus more on vertical M&A in, for instance, the media sector.
Director of Studies, IDATE DigiWorld
The connected object market today shows a real complementarity between the major players in terms of their current positionings, aligned with their core business.
In the longer term, however, IDATE DigiWorld anticipates that competition will grow in ferocity, around the platforms and services which are set to be the next source of revenues.
The automotive market
Around the connected car business, is key for Internet giants and telcos. Competition today is, in the main, on the platform side as both telcos and Internet giants are aiming to position themselves here today. Indeed, it is the platform that is the cornerstone of the next connected car strategy. Looking further ahead, the main competitors will most likely be OTT service providers, as they will offer services by exploiting the data generated by sensors in the vehicle – Uber-like companies are one example. Some industry incumbents are already engaged in the battle: earlier in 2016, GM invested half a billion USD in Lyft, the main competitor to Uber. The major involved players are AT&T and Verizon on the side of the telcos and Google (and Apple to a lesser extent) for Internet players.
The wellness market
This market is very recent. Telcos are absent from its value chain, with the exception of very limited volumes of cellular objects. They only focus on the distribution side, where the reselling business can grab them a sale commission on wearable objects, linked to smartphones. OTT Internet players are eying this promising consumer market for the opportunities it will offer in the near future to manipulate and monetise masses of personal data.
The healthcare market :
A specific market for a long time, its very promising market has been in the growing numbers of potential ‘clients’ as their age increases. The key objectives of healthcare applications are to optimise the treatment of disease and to save costs for national healthcare services. Even though solutions will be provided in partnership with experts, both telcos and Internet players will be push platforms and services.
The smart home market
It will be the arena for immense competition in the next few years. It is considered as a growth area for fixed telcos which are already facing competition from cablecos. On the side of the OTT Internet player, smart home applications are seen as a complementary way to follow their consumers/audience, even though they have different approaches. Competition – again, it will be heavy – will on the platform and services side as all players will be wanting to manage the data.
Today, the industrial Internet market is considered as an extension of the Industrial M2M business for telcos. The Internet giants are notable by their absence, even though some could provide cloud-based tool: Google, and Amazon with its specific IoT AWS offering, are prime examples. Analogous with traditional online services, the main threat for telcos is that they yet again become the pipe, and only the pipe. They have, however, anticipated the connectivity commodity trend by offering data platform solutions and related services. The ARPU from connectivity is very limited and the telcos expect only a small share of connected devices will be equipped with a SIM card. Before services, telcos have backed their core business, by setting their eyes on LPWA technologies (SIGFOX or LoRa) or collaborating on LPWA-like cellular ones such as the NB-IoT ahead. They are also backing the next 5G technologies, which aim to empower various verticals, including healthcare, manufacturing, smart cities and the automotive. It will be a tough battle, given that Internet giants are global by definition. Moreover, compared with traditional Web services, the main difference is that Internet giants manufacture their own objects, providing almost an end-to-end solution of product, platform and services on top. Faced with this kind of solution, traditional players in the industry will also suffer from the invasive nature of the OTT Internet players and their fierce competition.
Find out more information on "Telco's Connected Objects Strategies" in our dedicated market report
Director of Studies, IDATE DigiWorld
A market that could more than double by 2025 to reach €3,000 billion
IDATE DigiWorld has released the latest edition of its forward-looking report on the future of Internet and telecom markets. It delivers four development scenarios for the digital economy along with a quantitative forecast up to 2025.
When trying to picture the future of the industry for the purposes of this study, we identified a number of developments with the power to influence various dimensions of the digital economy. The starting point was to divide these trends into two categories: key trends and major uncertainties.
Key trends are developments that have clearly emerged and for which it is possible to assume, with reasonable certainty, how they will play out over the years ahead.
• For instance, with respect to technologies, one element that is quite certain is that network technologies will deliver better performance ten years from now than they do today. Even though 4G is still being rolled out and the 5G standard is not yet fully defined, it seems clear that 5G will deliver higher bandwidth, lower latency and better efficiency in terms of energy and spectrum usage than previous standards.
• Beyond this, looking at usages, the trend towards mobile will surely last. The adoption of smartphones, tablets, wearables and other connected devices (including cars) will continue to be on the rise and make mobile by far the dominant way to access the Internet.
• Business models and regulatory trends are also to some extent predictable. The value chain will continue to evolve with digital products cutting traditional players out of the loop. Regulation is very likely to shift towards more ex-post control and more symmetric obligations between players at the same layer of the value chain, but across layers, as with OTTs and telcos.
The major uncertainties can be categorised in a similarly broad way.
• For example, certain technological evolutions or changes in business models might push the industry to develop in one direction or another. The Internet of Things allows connecting any object to the Internet and may unleash enormous innovation potential. Yet, despite the maturity of its technologies, the business model remains largely unclear today.
• Consolidation in the telecom sector will continue but the end game is not yet predictable. Will consolidation remain a national phenomenon or will the market be dominated by a few regional, perhaps even global, players and who could they be?
• Will consumers continue to prefer paying for ‘free’ Internet services with personal data, or will they ultimately adopt more privacy-conscious paid offers?
In order to bring all these different elements together, four contrasting yet plausible scenarios for the "digital economy" industry in 2025 are developed in this study, identified as Mall, Open, Automated and Trust. They are projected against a two-by-two matrix whose axes are defined so as to capture a very heterogeneous "digital economy" industry, yet sufficiently focused to give discussion some meaningful guidance.
• One axis is the intensity with which personal data are being used. The intensity of personal data usage is an indication of the range of services telcos and Internet players will provide.
• The other dimension is the presence of enablers in the market. Enablers provide rather specialised solutions, which other companies can leverage to build their own businesses on.
Four development scenarios for the digital economy
Combining these different hypotheses allowed us to establish the four most plausible future scenarios:
• “Mall” scenario: Digital economy players adopt a strong focus on retail and customer owner-ship, seeking to be the one-stop user shop for all things digital, including content and devices. There is full-blown competition between Internet players and the telcos, each of them aggregating and marketing a branded bouquet of digital products and services.
• “Open” scenario: This digital economy ecosystem features seamless inter-operability and openness: open access, open innovation and open data. The Internet market is richly innovative and competitive. With token loyalty, users migrate to other innovative applications or services. Telcos focus on providing retail and whole-sale connectivity, with specialised services.
• “Automated” scenario: Sales, service production and customer care become largely softwarised. Customer requests configure service patterns automatically. Sophisticated data analytics are used mainly for internal purposes. Players leverage open standards and generic solutions to implement low-cost production.
• “Trust” scenario: This scenario comes to challenge the digital world as we know it, with rising insecurity and cyber-surveillance. Users rely on only a handful of players able to provide them with high levels of security and data protection, thanks in large part to technologies developed in-house. Business models based on targeted advertising and the public cloud both lose ground, while security solutions and paid services are on the rise.
Digital economy 2025: scenario matrix
Source: IDATE, The Digital Economy in 2025, January 2016
A market set to double over the next decade
Departing from a global market worth close to €1,500 billion in 2015, each scenario sketches out a very different value generating potential between now and 2025. The most optimistic “Mall” scenario forecasts a market that will double in value, climbing to close to €3,000 billion – which translates into average annual growth of 7% – whereas under the most pessimistic “Automated” scenario the market still grows to €2,200 billion by 2025, or by an average 4.2% a year
The market’s forecast breakdown, between Internet services on the one side and telecom (access) services on the other, also varies substantially, ranging from 49% for telecoms under the “Open” scenario to 60% under the “Trust” scenario. Of course, compared to the more than 75% share in 2015, this corresponds to telecom services steadily losing market share to Internet services.
Value growth for Internet and telecom services markets, by scenario, 2014-2025
Source: IDATE, The Digital Economy in 2025, January 2016
More information on The future of Telecom and Internet ecosystems in our report "Digital Economy 2025"
Discover the perspectives and key trends that will structure the digital economy for the next decade and participate to DigiWorld Future 2016
For the publication of the 16th edition of the DigiWorld Yearbook (pre-order now), IDATE is organizing a conference based on the detailed analysis of the current situations and some forecasts by IDATE experts on the major digital sectors, the discussion will deal with the great trends and challenges that will disrupt the digital markets by 2025.
CEO, IDATE DigiWorld
...in search of a convergent outcome
Proceeding behind closed doors, negotiations between Orange and Bouygues are now at the point where each party – independent of any actual transaction – is anticipating the reasons for and possible pitfalls of such a complex and far from certain merger.
The four players in the French telecommunications market have a shared interest in a scenario that would see the disappearance of one of its operators, not least with a view toward ending the price wars that have ravaged the sector. The French market would join the three-operator configuration that currently exists in Germany and, in the months to come, will emerge in the United Kingdom and Italy as well. This is a singular deal, however, as it involves the top provider of fixed line, mobile and enterprise services. So it can only go through if the new Orange is prepared to jettison many of the assets that it would acquire in the process.
Let us try to imagine what could lie ahead for these players in a situation that would be rich study for any expert of game theory.
Competition authorities – and regulators to a lesser extent – are in a delicate position since, even though they did not instigate it, they cannot fail to see the appeal of a deal that would help the sector get back on its feet: a sector whose revenue has been shrinking since 2008 and on whose massive investments the country is relying to some degree to achieve its digital transition. But the deal must not be approved at the cost of undermining effective competition between operators. Unlike with other mergers and acquisitions we have seen in Europe – between third-ranked or and fourth- and second-ranked operators which, in order to gain approval, have had to agree to certain remedies (such as selling off frequencies and opening their networks to MVNOs) – authorities here will have to prop up and justify a largely revamped structure for France’s telecom services market, through the conditions they impose on the distribution of frequencies, infrastructure, subscribers, stores, staff, etc. One can foresee the risks associated with ‘managed competition’.
Bouygues faces the prospect of trading control of its business for cash and a substantial stake in the leading provider, on the basis of favourable valuation. It is essential that it obtain a premium price. The biggest danger for the company lies in not getting that price and, in so doing, of having employees and even customers lose some confidence in the operator’s future.
Orange cannot agree to shoulder all of the risks of such a deal without having an objective other than doing the heavy lifting of a consolidation that is in everybody’s interest, except the shareholders’. If the new group is required to divest itself of the majority of Bouygues Telecom assets, it will need to ensure that the buyers help shoulder the burden of that premium price granted to Bouygues. A certain degree of competition is therefore necessary for that to happen. The company also needs to anticipate what advantages it will lose in yielding assets to competitors, for example those presently helping Orange and Bouygues Telecom enjoy a lead in the 4G market. Lastly, the cash released at the end of the deal must enable Orange either to accelerate its investments in France and other markets to strengthen its positions (while bracing itself for the kickback from regulators!) or give it the means to lead the charge in consolidating the sector in Europe.
SFR and Iliad are certainly interested in building their businesses thanks to the acquisition of assets. Their teams and their bankers must nevertheless determine the maximum they can pay, with an eye on debt ratios, beyond which it would be more cost effective to put their money into marketing and sales to gain subscribers, or to step up their investments in equipment and frequencies to accelerate their superfast fixed and mobile network rollouts. In the process, they also need to avoid finding themselves in competition with one another or with third parties.
And let us not forget one final protagonist: the Government, not as an authority in charge of competition or the sector’s regulator, but in its role of major Orange shareholder: does it have objectives other than those of a careful investor? Is the goal to set up a core of controlling shareholders in order to allow the State to withdraw?
Read more about a convergent outcome between Orange and Boyugues in Les Echos (french link) of the 29 January 2016