The North American communications market is evolving rapidly as a new, cloud-based dynamic is taking hold: services are increasingly simple applications delivered via an IP-based connection, whether wired or wireless. So, future residential bundles are unlikely to be quad plays (i.e., voice, video, Internet access and wireless), but rather a dual-play of landline and wireless broadband, over the top of which all else is delivered.
The survey, from Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan, shows that consumers find broadband connections sufficient for voice telephone and subscription television, in addition to a preference for bundled services. Services, therefore, may one day look more like applications, easily downloadable via an app store—a massive sea change from the days when communications services were hard-wired to network assets and remained the rarified purview of carriers.
Clearly, the ramifications for service providers are profound, who must continue to evolve their networks and approach to third party applications in new ways, to capture new revenue streams, monetize traffic and stay viable.
"The implications of these results portend a transformation in consumer perceptions," said Stratecast | Frost & Sullivan consumer communication services program manager Mike Jude. "Our findings made it very clear that consumption of the services that ride access channels - voice and video - is in decline. It begs the question: does this mean the two access services, broadband and wireless, are increasing in importance to consumers? The simple answer is yes."
Residential consumers already rate Internet service the highest in importance, followed by wireless, subscription video and then voice. Statistics related to the services consumed concurred with these rankings, with 97.3 percent of respondents subscribing to an Internet service, and 78.9 percent subscribing to landline telephone service. Finally, among other results, the survey found that Internet usage now exceeds conventional television viewing for more consumers with a data connection.
It’s not a shocker that landline telephone service is continuing to erode, with year-over-year annual erosion approaching 3 percent. While the survey found that nearly 79 percent of respondents still maintain a landline telephone service, more than 25 percent indicated they had dropped a landline service in their lifetime. At its peak, landline telephone service was used by 95 percent of consumers; however, factors like cellphone ownership, price and mobility continue to erode this figure.
Landline telephone service is not the only area where consumer interest is waning, as subscription television service also shows a slow to negative growth dynamic. In fact, conventional cable subscriptions show a marked decline, down 12 percent in the third quarter 2013 from Q3 2007.
In stark contrast, broadband Internet access is a growing market. With year-over-year growth at 3.7 percent from 2012 to 2013, the survey showed satellite-delivered broadband as well as fiber and cable continue to have considerable increases, while DSL is declining.
And, wireless continues its inexorable penetration among consumers. Subscribership, especially in the prepaid space, is increasing, although at a slower pace than in the past.
"The slowdown in wireless is due to subscriber saturation, and also because subscriptions can cover more than one device," said Jude. "The bigger picture is the fact that consumers are increasingly harnessing mobile devices as a medium for the delivery of data-based applications. Services are now applications, mostly written in software, and instantiated over IP-based connections. The old quad play is now the new dual play of landline and wireless broadband."
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