Connection in the time of COVID-19: BT predicts 2021 trends
2021 is drawing nearer by the day. With Halloween and a US presidential election (almost) out of the way, and a locked down holiday season approaching like a freight train, Mobile Magazine is reaching out to some of the leading executives in the telecom space to get a feel for the trends that are likely to shape the coming year.
This week, we’re hearing from , chief technology officer of the BT's Consumer unit, and , chief technology innovation officer for BT’s enterprise unit, as they paint a picture of COVID-19, the new normal, and a world in the process of becoming more connected than ever before - even in the time of social distancing.
An appetite for connectivity
“Connectivity is more important than it ever has been, and 2021 will see the reliance on our network continue to grow,” says Vafiadis. “We have adapted to a much more virtual way of working, learning and communicating. Many of us are using video platforms to communicate more than ever, both to collaborate with colleagues while working remotely and to keep in touch with family and friends.”
An earlier report from Deloitte backs up her assertion. As the world transitioned to a largely remote way of working this year in response to the pandemic and resultant lockdowns, the demand placed on telecom carriers and network operators, as well as the data centre industry, has skyrocketed. “As a ripple effect of the pandemic, significant increases in data consumption have been observed globally as entire populations shift to working and being educated from home due to social distancing,” notes the report.
In 2021, Vafiadis predicts that our collective appetite for video and data will only continue to grow as people begin to expect the same connectivity experience they get at home when they’re mobile.
“5G will continue to be rolled out to even more cities and towns across the UK to meet that demand. We can also expect to see 5G deployment expand to more commuter towns and suburban areas, as well as places with high footfall historically, such as city centres, railway stations, high streets and stadiums,” she adds.
Karonis also notes that this additional connectivity will continue to permeate the enterprise space as well, fueling new applications and solutions in the healthcare and digital services industries. “If we take the NHS as an example, we’re seeing lots of innovation around virtual GP consultations; remote patient monitoring; AI-enabled triage and diagnostics and population level health analytics,” he explains.
However, Karonis also cautions businesses against continuing to view technology as “simply a cost”, noting that found that “a significant proportion of UK businesses still view new technologies as a cost rather than an investment to help boost growth.” He adds that “Much of the slow adoption of emerging technology can be linked to the early roll out of 5G, and we anticipate this trend to change over the next couple of years.”
5G ramps up
As more and more 5G networks spin up and expand across the world, both Vafiadis and Karinos maintain that 2021 will be a milestone year for 5G applications in the enterprise and the home.
Vafiadis insists that, “2021 will see even more 5G applications come to life. We’ve already seen some exciting examples of how 5G can enhance experiences and operations, from revolutionising the way fans can watch sport with Augmented Reality (AR), to a remote-controlled ultrasound scan over 5G. The next era of 5G will bring even more for consumers, businesses and vertical sectors – from mobile cloud gaming, to real-time health monitoring, and even more immersive mobile AR. As more of these are developed, and as more 5G enabled devices come to the market, customer uptake will continue to grow.”
Karinos agrees, adding: As the 5G network continues to roll out across the UK, it will support the delivery and uptake of other emerging technologies like IoT, AI and VR. 2021 will see the growth of 5G which - coupled with these technologies - will play a critical role in fuelling the post-Covid recovery and digital economy; by boosting productivity, delivering new customer experiences and creating new business models.
Verizon’s 5G adoption rises as Q2 success hits record high
Verizon has reported record success in the second quarter of 2021 caused by an increase in the adoption of its 5G phone service, customer and sequential wireless service revenue growth, and network reliability. The company revised its revenue and adjusted EPS guidance upward for the full year as a result.
Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO of Verizon, said: “We are executing on our multipurpose network strategy and producing positive results in each of our five growth vectors, recording strong second-quarter results. With more connections on our network than anyone else, our already excellent network performance improved in the quarter and was recognized by RootMetrics as the best overall network performance for the 16th time in a row. We are also expanding our 5G Ultra-Wideband and 5G Home markets”.
He added that that the company “is excited about its momentum leading into the second half of the year”, and that it is “on track” to close the Tracfone and Verizon Media transactions.
Verizon’s Q2 2021 highlights
- US$1.40 in earnings per share (EPS); adjusted EPS*, excluding special items, of US$1.37.
- Operating revenue of US$33.8bn, a result of strong sequential wireless revenue growth.
- Net income of US$5.9bn and adjusted EBITDA* of US$12.2bn.
- Total wireless service revenue of US$16.9bn, a 5.9% increase year over year, and a 4.0 percent increase from second-quarter 2019.
- Total retail postpaid churn of 0.94 percent, and retail postpaid phone churn of 0.72 percent.
- 528,000 retail postpaid net additions, including 275,000 phone net additions, resulting in 121.3mn total retail connections.
- Total revenue of US$23.5 bn, an increase of 11.2% year over year, and an increase of 6.7% from second-quarter 2019.
- Total retail postpaid churn of 0.83%, and retail postpaid phone churn of 0.65 percent, a record-low retail postpaid phone churn outside of second-quarter 2020 and third-quarter 2020, which were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 350,000 retail postpaid net additions, including 197,000 phone net additions, driving 5G-phone adoption to approximately 20% of Consumer wireless phone customers and step-ups to premium unlimited plans.
- 92,000 Consumer Fios Internet net additions. The company's trailing 12-month total Fios Internet net addition performance is the highest since 2015.
- Total revenue of US$7.8bn, an increase of 3.7% year over year, and relatively flat from second-quarter 2019.
- Total retail postpaid churn of 1.30%, and retail postpaid phone churn of 1.07%.
- 178,000 retail postpaid net additions, including 78,000 phone net additions.
“Second quarter results were exceptional, both financially and operationally,” said Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis. “Our strong first-half performance and the momentum in our business gives us the confidence to raise our total wireless service revenue growth guidance to between 3.5% and 4%, an update from prior guidance for 2021 total wireless service revenue growth of at least 3%. We are also raising our adjusted EPS guidance* to the range of US$5.25 to US$5.35, an update from prior guidance for 2021 adjusted EPS* of US$5.00 to US$5.15”.
Also in Q2, Verizon came to an agreement with Apollo funds to sell Verizon Media, the expected close date being in the second half of 2021. Following this, the Verizon Media business classified certain assets as “Held for Sale”, which the company no longer depreciated or paid off. According to Verizon, this led to a partial quarter benefit of three cents per share in Q2, which will continue as a benefit until the deal is closed.