Industry growth ‘less than 1% a year’ until 2022, says report

29 March 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The telecoms industry is set to grow at less than 1% a year in revenues for the next three years.

This applies to both fixed and mobile services, according to STL Partners in its latest survey of global telecoms revenue from 2019 to 2022 (see chart).

For fixed and mobile combined, of the ten largest markets, China will grow most at 3.7% a year, says STL. India will shrink the fastest over the period, with an annual decline of 1.6%.

Regionally, Africa will show the strongest growth, with 4.8% for mobile and 3.6% for fixed. The North American fixed market will stay flat, at 0% growth. In western Europe, the mobile market will shrink by 1.3% a year over the three-year period.

“Our track record with detailed forecasts is strong,” said STL Partners. “We called the European mobile market contracting back in 2012 and the market declined by over 20% since. And now we say the rest of the world has caught Europe’s cold.”

No region will grow fixed or mobile telecoms services faster than around 4% a year, STL added. “Indeed, we say mobile services will keep declining in Europe at 1.3% compound annual growth rate to 2022. And, surprising to some, the US and Canada will also decline.” STL expects an average fall of 0.8% a year for the US and Canada.  

“Fixed telecoms services have recently been in the doldrums, but we think fibre deployment in US and Canada and in western Europe will help modest [revenue] growth in some countries. And this will help fixed services grow slightly quicker than mobile globally.”

SLT points out that “growth below 1% isn’t really growth – actually a decline in real terms”. The analyst company points out that companies expect higher capex spend on 5G than 4G. “There’s no evidence that network spend per se drives top-line growth,” it warns.  “And telcos can’t keep cutting cost elsewhere to maintain margins.”

STL examined fixed and mobile revenue for more than 90+ countries for this survey, looking back to 2009 and forwards to 2022. Countries vary in average annual growth from +16% to –16%, it adds.