The broadband industry is at the point of change, and ISPs, network owners and broadcasters all face a tough set of decisions over the next few years. These challenges may vary, but a new Broadband World Forum survey has given us a real snapshot of the concerns and business priorities of all the key players that make up the broadband ecosystem.
More than 230 senior figures from respondents across the world took part in the survey, highlighting the global nature of the broadband industry. Their responses have been combined with expert analysis from the likes of Nokia, IHS Markit, UBB sister company Ovum, Arqiva, Nagra, FutureSource and FreeWheel to create a detailed report.
One thing is clear though: Customer-led convergence is keeping all parts of the industry on their toes.
Service providers and network owners feel pressure from changing consumer demands, rural deployment and the expectations of 5G while at the same time watching their margins shrink as savvy consumers demand faster speeds at lower costs.
Consumer demand for content (predominantly video) is increasing, and consumers want it delivered instantaneously, immaculately and seamlessly via whatever platform or device they choose. The survey called on responses from OTT providers and broadcasters, as these groups and operators are becoming increasingly dependent on one another to deliver a service to consumers.
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Across all survey groups, the overwhelming feeling was that customer satisfaction and retention were the key priorities for their business. Nearly two thirds of respondents overall said their business was improving. But across the board, about a third reported falling or just stable revenue, reflecting the consolidation in the market. There is still money to be made, but fewer players control the pieces of revenue pie.
Another core priority the operator community feels is network upgrades. The demands that will be placed on the fixed network by 5G, IoT and autonomous vehicles are unprecedented, and our survey results show a key concern for those who own and operate the networks is making sure they are ready to deliver the "ultra-connected world." Fiber deployment, using technologies such as GFast, PON and DOCSIS to make copper as fast as fiber, and developing a FMC strategy are some of the items at the top of our respondents to-do lists.
From a business perspective, the focus for most over the next 12 months is identifying new revenue streams: Network investment, of course, needs ROI and with consumers and businesses feeling increasingly entitled to faster speeds (yet reluctant to pay for them) operators need something to bolster profits. These include entering the content delivery network (CDN) market with their own portfolio, establishing IoT and data center business, new TV brands and overall more OTT offerings -- these were some of the listed priorities for revenue stream development over the next 12 months.
Shrinking margins also explain a fanatical focus on delivering exceptional customer service -- with so much competition in the market it is crucial to delight customers with speed, amazing customer services and a varied and affordable array of packages.
This is echoed in the results from the content provider respondents, who cited improving the customer journey, developing the best user experience and speed of delivery as some of their main concerns for the next 12 months. Seamless content delivery is reliant on the networks, and as this trend continues we can expect to see tighter relationships between network owners, operators and OTT players.
What is clear from the results is that operators and networks are terrified their role will soon become redundant and they will be relegated to a dumb pipe delivering data through the networks while others reap the rewards of the ultra-connected Gigabit Society.
Download your copy of this excellent report today.
— Niall Hunt, Digital Lead, Content & Communities, KNect365. Follow him on Twitter @Niall_Hunt and learn more about Broadband World Forum here.