Oliver Johnson, CEO, Point Topic, looks back on 2014 for IP&TV News.
Winners of 2014
BT (UK). I think the proof is in the pudding: more subscribers, improved market share – even Watchdog had a hard time trying to find anything to beat up BT about. I think they’ve done a pretty good job and I think they’ve done a pretty good job against competition in the UK, the toughest market in the world in many respects. They seem to be listening to what people are telling them about how to win subscribers and influence them.
Netflix (US). Mainly because of the amount of chaos and controversy they’ve caused. Few other organisations can have had so many articles linking them with broadband and social development. Alright, it’s mostly been in the US – but their effect on the landscape of broadband has been noticeable this year.
Losers of 2014
The US cable companies – their response to their consumers, the way that they deal with their customers, trying extraordinary lengths to keep hold of them to the extent of obfuscating acts and preventing people from benefiting from broadband in the way we all perhaps should. They fight their corner, they fight for their monopoly, but they’re doing it at the expense of their customers.
The European Commission has also had a bit of a low-scoring last twelve months. I think the roaming fee reduction was great in telecoms terms but in terms of actually getting all the member states to contribute and coherently express a set of plans to achieve 100% coverage of broadband (admittedly, very difficult) — you’ve got to say it’s failed to date really, and it doesn’t look like it’s being easily resolved in the future.
Again, the UK comes out very well in Europe compared to a lot of the issues we’re seeing. Germany makes a lot of big promises but where’s the money? Poland has a long way to go. France, again, has got large rural areas uncovered. Italy’s having issues. Maybe it’s not entirely the EC’s fault, but they’re presiding over a chaotic situation which isn’t going to get convincingly better in the near future.
Surprise of 2014
There haven’t been any massive surprises. There have been people buying people – that’s not unexpected. Bandwidth has been increasing – that’s not unexpected. The dominance of DSL or end-to-end copper continues to decline but that’s not unexpected. Net neutrality hasn’t been resolved in the US but that’s not unexpected. There are so many things that are going on but none of them are following particularly unpredictable paths at this stage.
Defining feature of 2014
I think that broadband really has shifted this year from something that a relatively small number of people get excited about to something that everybody sees as a useful if not a vital part of their life. And we’re starting to see that reflected in user patterns: people are using it much more steadily and much habitually rather than getting excited and ploughing through hundreds and hundreds of this that and the other. It’s becoming a tool, a necessary tool, and it’s almost being taken for granted in some instances. I think the shift in public perception of broadband on a global average – so to speak – is for me the real change in 2014.
Expectations for 2015
For ISPs 2015 will be about tight margins and competing for subscribers and there’s two essential ways you can do that. You can either cut your prices and make them better relative to the others (and there isn’t much room to go in a lot of markets) — or you can produce a better product.
And at the moment it’s still about bandwidth. I think next year we’re going to see g.fast: I think we’re going to see some implementations of that in Europe certainly but further afield as well. So we’ll see what sort of reaction that gets and whether or not that gets traction in certain markets. And we’re going to see, almost as a reaction to that, DOCSIS 3.1 from the cablecos starting to come out.
Cable needs to up its game, but I think they’ve got the cards up their sleeve to do so.