Stiff competition for telcos in 2016

But How About 2017?

We feel that the Malaysian market needs at least one more telco company to really give more value to the customers. These telcos have been squeezing the Malaysian public for the past decade with their arrogant customer service, pricey data charges and lopsided contracts.

It is payback time!

Kuala Lumpur: A year of price war for mobile telecommunication companies or telcos best sums up the sector in 2016, as stiff competition in a saturated market prompted them to source new streams of income to sustain their businesses moving forward.

Current Analysis Group’s Senior Analyst for Asia Pacific Alfie Amir said mobile telcos saw a declining trend in their revenues and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), as well as total subscribers.

As of October this year, the average ARPU for telcos stood at RM41.50 compared to RM43.03 last year, and this was expected to decline further next year with a compound annual growth rate of -2.6 per cent from 2016 to 2021, he told Bernama.

Revenue peaked in 2013 but was stagnant in 2014 before starting to decline in 2015 and this year it is expected to decline even more significantly.

In terms of total subscribers, mobile operators recorded 46 million subscribers in 2015 and the number was expected to go down to 44.9 million this year and to 44.5 million in 2017, Alfie said.

Amid this challenging environment, the telcos, namely the top three players Maxis, Celcom and Digi – have been on a price war and are also increasingly giving more values to attract more customers especially from their rivals.

In tackling the price war, Maxis had, instead of reducing the price, put more emphasis on enhancing its product values and stressing on customer experience to position itself as a premium product against competitors, he said.

“As a result, they are losing the subscribers’ market share but in terms of ARPU, they are more stable as they lost only the lower-value subscribers but managed to retain higher-value customers compared to its competitors,” said Alfie.

Looking at the telco’s third-quarter results this year, another analyst said Maxis, which has maintained its premium pricing with a blended ARPU of RM100, showed a turnaround with its earnings gaining momentum, outperforming its peers in terms of margin.

Moving into 2017, Alfie said he hoped the telcos would realise that a price war did not really work in Malaysia and was only effective for certain segments.

He said the telcos needed to explore new ways to be relevant in the market by leveraging the use of Internet of Things and Big Data Analytics (BDA).

Meanwhile, another highlight of the year was the surprise move announced by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in February that it would reallocate and directly assign the 900MHz and 1800 MHz bands to four operators, namely Maxis, Celcom, Digi and U-Mobile.

Alfie said the spectrum reallocation would exacerbate the already intense competition as the top operators would be at a level playing field.

In this exercise, Digi and U-mobile will gain more access to this valuable capital expenditure-efficient spectrum while Maxis and Celcom would need to give back the some that they own.

Alfie pointed out that the spectrum fee charged to the telcos was expected to put a dent on the their total service revenue by between 10 and 15 per cent of their earnings’ margins.

“The telcos would have to find ways to optimise the spectrum by attracting more customers to monetise their investments going into 2017, as well as strategizing their sources and operate efficiently by improving their back-end processes like utilising more BDA,” he maintained.

Moving forward, he expected 2017 to see a battle among ‘converge players’ after Telekom Malaysia Bhd ™ launched its mobile arm ‘webe’, formerly known as Packet One Networks, on September 30 this year.

“This will allow TM to provide converge services of both fixed line and mobile.

“Before webe, Maxis was the only player to offer fixed-line and mobile services but is progressing slowly in terms of innovating the convergence of both services,” he said.

Celcom has also entered the play after a soft launch of its fixed-line services early this year for selected customers and expected to finalise the offerings to end-users next year.

Consequently, there will be three big players to offer converged services which will ultimately intensify the competition and undoubtedly drive innovation.

Alfie explained that entering into the fixed-line space would be a way to explore new source of income for mobile telcos but TM would benefit more as most of the fixed-line infrastructure belonged to the company.

Hence for other operators to offer fixed-line services, they have to do these via wholesale agreement with TM.

On the enterprise segment, he said TM continued to be the dominant player this year in this segment which provided more fixed-line services rather than mobile, with the other player TIME dotCom Bhd trailing far behind due to coverage limitation.

In the fixed-line market, TM currently owns about 85 per cent share, TIME about 5.0 per cent and the balance shared between TM, Maxis and the rest, he said.

“TM is also on the right journey to transform the company by tracking the telcos in advanced countries to move beyond connectivity into the information technology (IT) providers’ space in the enterprise market.

“Telcos globally are now offering cloud solutions, data centre, cyber security, software services network…the solutions that IT providers are offering,” he said.

Interestingly, 2017 will see the growth of smaller players like XOX Bhd, Tune Talk Sdn Bhd, Red One Network Sdn Bhd, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International (M) Sdn Bhd (Telin Malaysia), webe sdn bhd, YTL Communications Sdn Bhd’s Yes, and those with subscribers of below one million, to eat into the market share of the big players by catering to the needs of niche market and emerge as a new threat.

An example to ponder is the presence of Telin Malaysia, a subsidiary of a big telco in Indonesia, which is already here to offer services to a niche market for Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, also an important segment for the big telcos. – http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=114851

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