The future of our industry, according to the network operator ‘big guns’

Sarah Attwood

19 Nov 2015

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend CCS Insight’s prediction event. A long-standing Harvard client; each year CCS predict (pretty accurately we must say) what we can expect in the technology industry, from devices all the way to virtual reality - including the mergers of 02-Three and BT- EE this year. I could go on about all the things they expect to happen in the next year, but more on that later (our very own Hollie will be revealing all the juicy details on the blog tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled!). Instead, I wanted to write about the panel session I listened to, that included some of the top network operators discussing their thoughts on the future of our industry. The panel included:
  • Patricia Cobian, Director Strategy and Transformation, Telefonica UK
  • Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO, Vodafone UK
  • Olaf Swantee, CEO, EE
  • Sean Williams, Group Director Strategy, Policy and Portfolio, BT
I know – what a panel hey? The panel kicked off by talking about acquisitions. No surprise there, given the number of mergers that have taken place over the last few years – from Cable & Wireless and Vodafone, Three and 02 to Orange and T-Mobile. It’s a been a busy few years, but what was interesting about this is how the enterprise market has played a huge role in influencing these big providers. Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO at Vodafone UK spoke indepth about how the enterprise network market moves more quickly than the consumer one, hence why they merged with Cable & Wireless. It made strategic sense to them; as a result, enterprise accounts for half of Vodafone’s business. “We want to grow organically” You may have seen the recent advertising campaign from Vodafone and its push to provide broadband to the consumer market. Jeroen went into detail about how the enterprise market gave them the basis and the fibre to also reach out to consumers in a way they previously hadn’t. Jeroen was keen to highlight how Vodafone wanted to enter this market organically and how they soon will be entering the TV market. “It’s important to have a merger of two equals” Olaf Swantee, CEO, EE, discussed the thorny subject of unsuccessful mergers. He focused on the importance - in the long run - to have a merger of two equals and how merging two companies with the same product is harder than merging with a company that has something that it didn’t previously have. Sean Williams, Group Director Strategy, Policy and Portfolio, BT, was quick to add that its recent relationship with EE had been very successful. The point was a merger needs to focus on avoiding making mistakes, spending too much money or buying a rubbish business. In the case of BT and EE luckily this hasn’t been the case. “Consumers want choice” Moving the conversation on, Patricia Cobian, Director Strategy and Transformation, Telefonica UK, honed in on how the consumer has changed over the last few years. This threw up some interesting insights, personally, I was under the impression that we (as consumers) were becoming more demanding than ever before. But actually, Patricia went into lots of detail about how the enterprise network market knows what it wants, but there has not been a significant demand on the consumer side. The consumer market is instead all about choice, hence why we are now seeing offers such as quad play to give consumers just that. Patricia finished by saying that it’s important for network providers to be opportunistic in today’s market. The debate finished with the topic of regulation. All four speakers made it clear that the need for keeping the market competitive was vital in the UK, but that the large increase in regulation has made it difficult. And that was it! It was great to listen to the speakers talk about what they were seeing in today’s market. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen with them in upcoming year! Check out the blog tomorrow where you will be able to read CCS Insight’s predictions for 2016.