Monday, November 7, 2011

What Would Double-Dip Recession Do To Telecom?

It isn’t yet clear whether Europe, or other regions, will enter a double dip recession in 2012 or not. Analysts at Gartner already are predicting that the next recession in enterprise information technology spending has virtually begun, and that spending will slow through 2015.

The impact of the Great Recession beginning in 2008 is easy enough to describe. According to TeleGeography Research, revenue growth slipped from about seven percent annually to one percent in 2009, returning to about three percent globally in 2011. Global revenue after recession

The Economic Cycle Research Institute says the U.S. economy is either just beginning to dip, or is about to do so, says Lakshman Achuthan, the managing director of ECRI. "The critical news is there's no turning back,” he says. “We are going to have a new recession." U.S. Double Dip?

If that turns out to be correct, service providers probably will encounter revenue pressure much as was seen in the last recession. The issue will not be so much that “lines” or “accounts” are abandoned, as that users will consume less. So “line loss” will not be the issue so much as “average revenue per user.”

Some believe that, even in the absence of a new recession, there will be no quick post-recession recovery for Western European telecom revenue, according to new forecasts published by Analysys Mason. End-user spend was down by 4.4 percent in 2009, and will decline at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of –1.8 percent until 2012, the firm predicted.  No quick return to growth

What was expected in the last recession was a greater degree of product substitution. "The more flexible cost structure of mobile networks means that mobile operators are winning more of the lower usage end of the fixed services customer base," the International Telecommunications Union says. "This has happened in voice, and 2008 has demonstrated that mobile broadband can substitute for light-usage DSL." Recession impact on telecom

Also, more consumers are likely to opt for prepaid and flat-rate packages for telecom services to try and control their spending.

Point Topic does not believe any recession would affect “line growth.” The total number of broadband lines in these countries will grow from 393 million by the end of 2008 to 635 million by 2013.

Adding in estimates for the remaining smaller countries suggests that the world will add a further 48 million broadband lines to reach 683 million in total over the period. Point Topic forecast

This represents a 10.8 percent per year compound growth rate, well down from 27.7 percent per year in the 2004 to 2008 period, but still substantial, Point Topic argues.

One major reason for the slowdown in growth is that most of the richer countries are approaching saturation with broadband; new customers are becoming harder to find and sign up. At the same time poorer countries such as China and India have gone through the initial phase of rapid growth and are now growing steadily rather than exponentially.

Whatever else one might say, the number of accounts or lines in service seemed relatively unfazed by the recent “Great Recession.”  Fixed voice subscriptions will continue a downward trend, as users increasingly switch to mobile and VoIP substitutions. The recession impact is likely to be on average revenue per user, not abandonment of service, as such. Line growth

For its part, Gartner believes enterprise IT spending in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), which will be €604 billion in 2011, a 1.4 percent decline from 2010, will face headwinds through 2015.

Euro-based enterprise IT spending in the region will grow by 2.3 percent in 2012. Western Europe will continue to slow EMEA growth through 2015, according to Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of Research at Gartner. IT to Hit Double Dip

“The second recession is about to hit and CIOs must decide which way to turn,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “The continued global economic uncertainty and the eurozone crisis will impact your IT budget in 2012, and your business will face difficult budgetary questions,” says Sondergaard.

Sharply lower economic growth in the mature economies of Western Europe is the reason for the tight IT budgets.  Austerity measures brought in to deal with the sovereign debt crisis will curtail government spending on IT in particular and hinder economic growth, which will result in lower demand for IT products and services from businesses.

Western Europe, which accounts for 80 percent of EMEA enterprise IT spending, will see enterprise IT spending in euros decline by 1.8 percent in 2011 and grow by only 1.5 percent in 2012, Gartner predicts.

Government (including education) IT spending will account for the largest share of Western Europe enterprise IT spending in 2011, at 20 percent of the total. Gartner predicts that this sector will decline by 4.8 percent in 2011 and 1.7 percent in 2012, and that it will not recover to the level seen in 2010 until 2015.

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