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2009 not all doom and gloom for mobile

Although 2009 has already been billed as a year of doom and gloom, there are plenty of opportunities for savvy investors, operators and vendors in the dynamic global mobile industry.

So says industry analyst and telecoms.com parent Informa Telecoms & Media, which advises that those companies that can most clearly and effectively differentiate their services and build their brand, will win out by retaining existing custom at a time when an increasing number of consumers are reviewing their spending plans.

Indeed, understanding and managing customer needs will be the key to ensuring customer loyalty, which will prove to be a priceless commodity in 2009, the analyst claims.

Principal analyst at Informa, Nicholas Jotischky, believes that emerging markets remain at the centre of this opportunity. Untainted by saturation, there are still considerable margins for growth in some of the world’s most populous markets such as India, Indonesia and Nigeria. And the potential does not just revolve around new customers, but in serving those most recently connected with greater content offerings and value added applications.

In the Middle East, revenues from mobile data services in the third quarter of 2008 reached $1bn, highlighting the potential for the uptake of mobile broadband services. Jotischky pinpoints the single most notable feature in the region as the ongoing expansionist activity of some of the Gulf’s largest operators. “We expect to see a healthy M&A climate in 2009 in Africa and Asia as Zain and Etisalat clearly see the current global macroeconomic climate as an opportunity to acquire new assets in high-growth markets,” Jotischky said.

Earlier this week Etisalat won Iran’s third national 2G and 3G mobile licence, while Zain and Orascom picked up network management contracts in Lebanon.

And while there is less room for optimism in Europe and North America, opportunities will present themselves her too. The analyst believes that in markets such as Germany and the US, there is still a mood for service innovation, with value added services to either help make the life of users easier (mobile payment) or more entertaining (music/mobile TV).

But in its latest report, ‘Global Mobile Outlook for 2009’, Informa does acknowledge the considerable challenges ahead for the industry, especially for the vendor community. On Wednesday, Canadian vendor Nortel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“The lifeblood of the supplier community is operator capital expenditure, and if we start to see a prolonged trend for cuts in investment plans for 2009 and beyond, this will spell trouble. The handset market will also need to watch very closely the impact of consumer spending cuts and the decreased availability of credit, especially towards the higher-end of the consumer and corporate markets,” Jotischky warned. At the time of writing, troubled vendor Motorola was in the process of announcing yet more cost cutting initiatives.

“A useful barometer for the industry as a whole will be spending on mobile data services – the moment data revenues stagnate is the time to worry, and we have not yet reached this stage,” he said.


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