Closing the loop on our predictions for 2016

When we in the end of December 2015 made nine predictions for 2016, our intention was that they should be measurable.

This is the moment of truth. With all reported operator data at hand, we can now close the loop on 2016.

Prediction 1 – mobile data usage of 10 GB per month

At least one mobile operator will reach an average mobile data consumption of 10 GB per any SIM and month in 2016

It happened. The Finnish operator DNA carried a total of 345 petabyte of mobile data in 2016. If this traffic is averaged out over DNA’s average number of SIMs, it becomes 10.7 GB per SIM and month in 2016.

Elisa of Finland wasn’t far behind with 9.2 GB. Two operators in Taiwan are close as well: In the first nine months of 2016 (last quarter not yet reported), Taiwan Mobile had 8.2 GB and FarEasTone 7.7 GB per SIM and month. ‘3’ in Austria had 7.8 GB – again in the first nine months of 2016.

Read more about mobile data usage in this analysis.

Prediction 2 – VoLTE + Wi-Fi calling dominates

At least one mobile operator will carry more than two-thirds of voice calls on 4G/Wi-Fi in 2016

It happened. The American operator T-Mobile reported that by the end of 2016, 67% of voice calls were VoLTE. Wi-Fi Calling figures have not been stated by T-Mobile in a long time, but last time the company did, it was about 5% of call volumes. Adding the two should take T-Mobile above the two-thirds.

Tele2 from the Netherlands, who only operates a 4G network (relying on national roaming for 3G if needed) said it carried 1.5 million VoLTE calls per day in February 2017 – without saying how many calls there were in total. At this time 33% of Tele2’s customers had VoLTE enabled.

Prediction 3 – fibre dominates over DSL/cable

At least one European country will have more than 60% of all fixed broadband subscribers connected with FTTB/FTTH in 2016

It happened. Lithuania had 63% of the country’s fixed broadband subscribers connected with FTTB/FTTH in September 2016.

Thanks to an ambitious FTTH rollout, Sweden reached 52% in June 2016, but has likely not reached 60% in December. Official stats are not yet available.

Prediction 4 – Wi-Fi homespots in more than 60% of homes

At least one European country will have Wi-Fi homespots in more than 60% of country households in 2016

It happened. 64% of the households in Belgium had a Wi-Fi homespot – operated by Telenet, VOO or Proximus – in December 2016.

The other two Wi-Fi homespot heavyweights in Europe – France and the Netherlands – were at 48% and 36% respectively.

Prediction 5 – roam like home ahead of legislation

At least one mobile operator per EU country will have launched roam like home in 2016 – ahead of legislation

It happened. Even though EU did its best to create a mess out of the process of agreeing on the roam like home fair usage policy and the wholesale rate, selected European operators went ahead with roam like home in EU so that at least one operator per country launched it in 2016. Some of the first-movers were Free in France, Vodafone Group, Telenor in Norway and Sweden and ‘3’ in the UK and Denmark.

Prediction 6 – no mobile mergers unless subscribers sold

No mobile merger will be approved by EU in 2016 – unless one party sells its customer base

It happened and it did not happen. EU did not approve the merger between ‘3’ and O2 in the UK – but at the same time, EU did approve the creation of a JV between ‘3’ and Wind in Italy. The case was approved without any of the two parties selling its subscriber base. But other sacrifices were made: Frequency licenses and network assets were sold to Iliad (Free) to enable a new fourth mobile operator in Italy.

Prediction 7 – Wi-Fi first mobile comes to Europe

The first Wi-Fi first mobile provider will launch in Europe in 2016

It did not happen. FreedomPop did launch in the UK and Spain in 2015-2016, but in contrast to the US where FreedomPop is Wi-Fi first, this part of the proposition wasn’t exported to Europe. Google’s Project Fi, arguably the best known Wi-Fi first provider, didn’t launch in Europe in 2016. Project Fi’s users are, though, Wi-Fi first also when roaming in Europe.

The rumour is that FreedomPop will become Wi-Fi first also in Europe in 2017.

Prediction 8 – from skinny bundles to no bundles

By the end of 2016, all cablecos have unbundled TV from fixed broadband and selling TV content on-demand to whoever wants to watch it

It did not happen. Some cablecos, if not most, have unbundled TV from fixed broadband, but TV content is still most often sold in bundles and just to regular cableco customers. A few telcos have, however, launched TV in an “over-the-top” way.

Prediction 9 – the quad-play market saturates

At least one of the European quad-play first-movers has to realise that the customer take-up stalls in 2016 when no new households sign up

The growth stalled, but did not stop entirely. The Portugese incumbent, Portugal Telecom (or MEO) still added quad-play households in 2016, but its owner Altice used the word “saturated” in its Q4 report:

In 2016, Telefónica has been reporting a growing churn rate for customers on converged Fusión plans and as a consequence net take-up has slowed significantly in the two last quarters of 2016 compared to 2015. But Telefónica has not yet reached the position where no new households sign up. Telefónica makes large investments into FTTH and the strong demand for FTTH masks a weakening demand for quad-play. Trends are similar with other FTTH-building quad-pushing incumbents like Orange and Portugal Telecom.

Facing a new year, we decided to be more courageous in our predictions for 2017. Ironically, it seems to work out very well for us. Who thought Verizon would go for unlimited data in December last year? Well, we did.

Take a look.