The impact of VoIP and instant messaging on traditional communication services in Europe

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1 The impact of VoIP and instant messaging on traditional communication services in Europe September 2015 Supported by Google " IDATE Project Manager Vincent BONNEAU Soichi NAKAJIMA +33 (0) (0)

2 About IDATE and DigiWorld Institute Founded in 1977, IDATE has gained a reputation as a leader in tracking telecom, Internet and media markets, thanks to the skills of its teams of specialized analysts. Now, with the support of more than 40 member companies which include many of the digital economy s most influential players the newly rebranded DigiWorld Institute has entered into a new stage of its development, structured around three main areas of activity: IDATE Research, an offer of market intelligence publications IDATE Consulting, time-tested analysis DigiWorld Institute, a think tank on the digital economy.

3 Contents 1. Executive Summary VoIP & IM has not significantly adversely impacted the EU Telcos Case IM vs SMS Case VoIP vs traditional telephony There is in fact potential for growth from OTT VoIP and IM for telcos 2. IM vs SMS The myth: Instant messaging (such as WhatsApp) is destroying SMS. The reality: Instant messaging (such as WhatsApp) has not had significant negative impacts on SMS 2.1. SMS volume continued to increase even after the introduction of WhatsApp 2.2. SMS revenues were already in decline before the introduction of WhatsApp 3. VoIP vs Telco telephony The myth: VoIP provided by OTTs has replaced traditional telephony The reality: VoIP (such as Skype) has not had significant negative impacts on telco telephony revenues 3.1. No obvious correlation between the introduction of Skype and decline in International calling revenues Telcos themselves providing VoIP offers, leading to competition and revenue decline 3.2. Strong regulatory influence on declining telco revenues Roaming Mobile termination rates 3.3. Peer competition as the root cause for declining mobile telephony prices Markets that saw disruptive pricing by a telco (such as France) shows decreasing mobile revenues through telco competition over the years, irrespective of VoIP players Markets that have seen no new aggressive (i.e. low cost) pricing (such as Spain) shows mobile revenue decline through economic recession, irrespective of VoIP players 4. There is in fact potential for growth from OTT VoIP and IM for telcos Mobile data revenues compensate SMS revenue decline

4 Figures Figure 1 : SMS volume evolution in France, with respect to introduction of unlimited SMS and WhatsApp into the market Figure 2 : The evolution of unlimited offers on mobile, 2009 and 2010 Figure 3 : Reasons for not using WhatsApp in the UK (2013) Figure 4 : SMS volume evolution in Spain, with respect to introduction of WhatsApp into the market Figure 5 : Average revenue per SMS message, 2011 Figure 6 : Correlation between revenue per SMS and usage trends Figure 7 : SMS revenues evolution in Spain, with respect to introduction of WhatsApp into the market Figure 8 : Impact of Skype on telcos international calling volume growth Figure 9 : Evolution of International fixed voice revenue for select European countries, 2000 to 2013 Figure 11 : Evolution of Free s unlimited international VoIP calling service Figure 12 : EU27 MTR levels 2008 vs (EURct/min) Figure 13 : MTR as share of avg. revenue per voice minute Figure 14 : Evolution of voice minutes in France, fixed and mobile, 2007 to 2014 Figure 15 : Evolution of average monthly mobile voice revenue per user in France, 2010 to 2014 Figure 16 : Evolution of mobile voice minutes and revenues in Spain, 2000 to 2013 Figure 17 : Mobile telecom revenues from data services in Italy, 2012 and 2013 Figure 18 : Total of SMS and data revenue in Spain, 2007 to 2013 Figure 19 : Example of shared data plan from AT&T in the US Figure 20 : Top mobile apps worldwide

5 1. Executive Summary VoIP & IM has not significantly adversely impacted the EU Telcos This report will show that services such as Instant Messaging and Voice over IP have not had a significantly adverse impact on traditional telecommunication providers in Europe. In fact, this report will show that these services are providing new areas of growth for European telecommunications providers Case IM vs SMS If it was the case that the introduction of Instant Messaging services had a significantly adverse effect on telecommunication providers, then we would expect to see SMS revenues decline when IM was introduced into the market. But this is not the case. Instead, we see two patterns, depending on the level of peer competition within the country: i) SMS volume continued to increase even after the introduction of WhatsApp; and ii) SMS revenues were already in decline before the introduction of WhatsApp. In the former case (case i), peer competition had led to telcos introducing low and unlimited SMS offers before the likes of WhatsApp appeared, leading to steep volume growth which continued unperturbed by the appearance of WhatsApp. In France for example, with the introduction of unlimited SMS by SFR in 2007, SMS volume grew by CAGR of 82% from 2007 to WhatsApp was launched in the latter of 2009, but growth continued with a CAGR of 43% from 2009 to In the latter case (case ii), SMS was arguably priced too high - significantly above the EU average, and thus as the economic recession struck and users became more price-sensitive, SMS was impacted and revenues declined. This occurred before the appearance of WhatsApp. In Spain for example, SMS revenues have been decreasing since 2008 (volumes since 2006), which is before WhatsApp launched in the latter of Thus in conclusion, IM has not significantly adverse effects on European telcos; peer competition and pricing strategy are larger factors of any negative revenue trends Case VoIP vs traditional telephony Similarly if it was the case that VoIP services, such as Skype, significantly adversely impacted traditional telephony then we would expect to see telephony revenues impacted when VoIP came to market. Again however this is not the case. VoIP has had the largest impact on International calls due to the free calls (as opposed to high telco International calling charges), yet no obvious correlation between the introduction of Skype in 2003 and decrease in International calling revenue can be seen. Further, traditional EU telcos are increasingly offering their own managed VoIP solutions, leading to increase in their own revenues; in the UK, VoIP revenues have gone from 91 million EUR in 2006 to 651 million EUR in Mobile voice revenues are also on the decline, but here the main contributors are peer competition and regulation. Competitive markets such as France see aggressive telco strategies leading to revenue decrease (Free s introduction of 5c/min calling accelerated revenue decline), while the likes of Spain see revenues start to decline as the economic recession bites. On top of this, regulations on roaming and MTR (mobile termination rates) have enforced a downward trend for telco revenues. Thus in conclusion, VoIP has not had significantly adverse effects for European telcos, with telcos themselves also providing the service. Peer competition and regulation are larger factors of any negative revenue trends.

6 There is in fact potential for growth from OTT VoIP and IM for telcos Studying the figures released by NRAs, one finds that the revenue growth from data consumption is in fact compensating for the decrease in revenue from SMS usage for the majority of countries. In Spain for example, the total of SMS revenues and data revenues continue an overall positive trend (from 2.5 billion EUR in 2007 increasing to 3.8 billion EUR in 2013). Many operators are already shifting to a data-driven model emphasizing increasing data consumption and operational savings to offset the decline in voice and messaging revenue.

7 2. IM vs SMS The myth: Instant messaging (such as WhatsApp) is destroying SMS. If this myth was true, then we would expect to see a dent in SMS volume and/or revenues when IM was introduced. The reality: Instant messaging (such as WhatsApp) has not had significant negative impacts on SMS SMS volume continued to increase even after the introduction of WhatsApp (such as France, UK, Sweden; see section 2.1, Figure 1), or revenues were already in decline before the introduction of WhatsApp (such as Spain, Netherlands, Germany; see section 2.2, Figure 4) 2.1. SMS volume continued to increase even after the introduction of WhatsApp Figure 1 : SMS volume evolution in France, with respect to introduction of unlimited SMS and WhatsApp into the market Source: IDATE, based on ARCEP (French regulator) figures As can be seen from the Figure 1 above, France has been largely unaffected by the emergence of WhatsApp, having introduced unlimited SMS in late 2007 (genuinely unlimited, in the sense that it is not limited to on-net, number restriction, etc.). Up until this point, SMS volume had been growing steadily with a CAGR of 33% over 6 years (from 2001 to 2007). But after the introduction of unlimited SMS in 2007, the growth rate sky-rocketed: both from 2007 to 2008 and from 2008 to 2009, the growth rate was over 80%. It is important to note here that this was all happening before the emergence of WhatsApp. Then even after the introduction of WhatsApp in late 2009, the growth continued with a CAGR of 43% from 2009 to 2012, mostly unaffected by WhatsApp. WhatsApp became globally popular during 2012, by which time

8 unlimited SMS became available for a mere 2 EUR, and the volume of SMS unsurprisingly began to plateau. Indeed, looking at this growth pattern this would seem like a natural s-curve from the theory of diffusion of innovation, whereby saturation of SMS volume has been reached (i.e. the uptake of unlimited SMS plans and the physical amount of SMS that can be sent by the population has been reached). Important to note here is that this growth had stared before the existence of WhatsApp, and the growth also continued after the launch of WhatsApp, which appears to suggest that WhatsApp did not have a significant detrimental effect on the growth of SMS volume. It is worth noting that already in August 2009 more than 1 in 4 French mobile users had an unlimited SMS plan (28%), which had increased to 41% in the space of just one year (i.e. by August 2010). Figure 2 : The evolution of unlimited offers on mobile, 2009 and 2010 Source: Federation Française des Telecoms (FFT) Such countries where users already had access to unlimited SMS for a reasonable price have indeed no real incentive to migrate from SMS to the likes of WhatsApp. The survey below (Figure 3), carried out in the UK in 2013, demonstrates this point (as a reminder, UK is also a country where unlimited SMS was available and thus SMS volume was growing significantly before WhatsApp hit the market in 2009). Over two-thirds of the respondents have unlimited SMS so do not see the merits of changing to WhatsApp, while the ubiquity of SMS (no Internet connection required, all family and friends accessible, and only the phone number required) is also a big factor in the SMS advantage.

9 Figure 3 : Reasons for not using WhatsApp in the UK (2013) Since the countries who follow this pattern of SMS volume growth have been essentially unaffected by the emergence of WhatsApp, it follows that SMS value (revenue) has also been unaffected by them. With the emergence of unlimited (and also abundant) SMS offers being offered as a packaged bundle for the majority of plans, it has become increasingly difficult to measure precisely the value of SMS over time; however, it would be reasonable to assume that overall the trend is negative as more is being offered for a lower cost. Nevertheless, such potential decrease in revenue is largely due to internal competition (i.e. price war) amongst the telcos, as opposed to any external affects such as the emergence of WhatsApp SMS revenues were already in decline before the introduction of WhatsApp Figure 4 : SMS volume evolution in Spain, with respect to introduction of WhatsApp into the market Source: IDATE, based on CNMC (Spanish regulator) figures

10 As can be seen from Figure 4 above, in the case of Spain SMS volume was already in decline before the introduction of WhatsApp. Firstly, it should be noted that domestic SMS prices in Spain were relatively high compared to other nations (Figure 5), and, as demonstrated in Figure 6, there is a correlation that higher revenue per SMS (i.e. SMS pricing) leads to negative SMS usage. In fact, before 2010, SMS price within Spain was more expensive than sending an international SMS, the price of which is regulated by the European Commission. A similar service in France and UK was offered at a price 10 times cheaper. Figure 5 : Average revenue per SMS message, 2011 Note: USA includes push-to-talk revenues and this cannot be compared directly with the others Source: Ofcom and IDATE Figure 6 : Correlation between revenue per SMS and usage trands Source: IDATE, based on Ofcom and Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey figures

11 Such high pricing is the likely cause of decrease from 2006, accelerating as the economic recession struck in Europe, and especially in Spain from There is a further sharp fall in 2012, which may be the effect of a combination of the popularization of WhatsApp (which launched in 2009 but started to gain real worldwide traction in 2012), and the lack of unlimited SMS offers that were common in other EU countries. For example, as of September 2015, in Spain Telefonica and also Vodafone offer unlimited SMS postpaid tariffs but only for plans above 33 EUR, giving users the option of not having unlimited SMS for a lower monthly fee, while Orange has no postpaid unlimited SMS offering. Compare this to France where all postpaid tariffs come with unlimited SMS, even with Free s lowest tariff of 2 EUR per month. In short, SMS pricing in Spain was vulnerable not to WhatsApp but to the recession which struck before it. According to data provided by the Spanish regulator CNMC, we see that SMS revenues have in fact been decreasing since 2008, with a significant drop in It is likely that the emergence of the likes of WhatsApp has played a part in this acceleration; at a time when SMS revenues were already on the decrease due to its expensive pricing and economic struggles, WhatsApp provided an effective alternative for users where cheaper, unlimited SMS solutions were unavailable to them. Figure 7 : SMS revenues evolution in Spain, with respect to introduction of WhatsApp into the market Source: IDATE, based on CNMC (Spanish regulator) figures Thus, it appears that countries such as Spain, Netherlands, Germany where SMS was priced significantly higher than the EU average were affected more by the likes of WhatsApp. The economic recession was already making the users price sensitive leading to poor (even negative) SMS revenue growth, and in these markets this negative trend was accelerated when cheaper alternatives emerged, such as WhatsApp.

12 3. VoIP vs Telco telephony The myth: VoIP provided by OTTs has replaced traditional telephony If the myth was true, then we would expect to see telco telephony revenue decline with the introduction of OTT VoIP such as Skype The reality: VoIP (such as Skype) has not had significant negative impacts on telco telephony revenues Telco telephony revenues have been mainly impacted by regulation and peer competition, with no obvious correlation between the introduction of Skype and decline in International calling revenues (see Figure 9). This myth is often referenced to the 2012 Ovum report entitled the future of voice, with the sentence OTT VoIP will cost telecom operators 479 billion USD by Although eye-catching, this statement is rather misleading as it is only one fraction of the explanation presented by Ovum itself. Within the report description by Ovum, the following sentence is included in the main summary 1 : Declining revenues are mainly due to falling telephony prices, largely a function of market maturity and peer competition rather than the much-feared over-the-top (OTT) VoIP players Further, looking at the actual figures provided by Ovum, they forecast overall telco voice revenues (including fixed subscriptions) will decline at a CAGR of 2.4% between 2012 and 2020, falling from $970.4bn in 2012 to $799.6bn in Thus, by taking in the whole explanation provided by Ovum, we can see that even their own expectations of OTT VoIP impact were actually much smaller than the headline numbers No obvious correlation between the introduction of Skype and decline in International calling revenues Back in 2005, The Economist had declared the slow death of traditional telephony due to VoIP, such was its expected impact at the time. Of course, telephony is far from dead 10 years on. While VoIP services such as Skype offered (and still do) free Skype-to-Skype calls (not including the cost of Internet connection), it was never able to capture the national calling market, although it did make a noticeable impact on the international calling market largely due to the free calls. According to TeleGeography, since the introduction of Skype in 2003, telcos potential international voice traffic growth has been largely reduced by up to 8% as can be seen from the figure 8 below. 1

13 Figure 8 : Impact of Skype on telcos international calling volume growth Source: TeleGeography However, looking at the evolution of International calling revenues, there appears to be no obvious correlation between the introduction of Skype in 2003 and decrease in International calling revenue (Figure 9). The UK shows such decline was happening before the introduction of Skype, while Spain even sees an increase upon the introduction of Skype. In fact, the only country where such a concept could be potentially argued is France; but then France was seeing fierce peer competition in 2003 with telcos introducing their own managed VoIP services (as explained just below, Figure 10) Figure 9 : Evolution of International fixed voice revenue for select European countries, 2000 to 2013 Source: IDATE

14 Telcos themselves providing VoIP offers, leading to competition and revenue decline Increasingly the telcos themselves offer their own managed VoIP service, and in particular France was an early adopter of this trend. Free in France started offering managed fixed VoIP calling in 2003, which started as unlimited national calls, but gradually expanded into international destinations, and even to national mobiles in 2011 depending on the tariffs. Figure 10 : Evolution of Free s unlimited international VoIP calling service Date Scope of telephone service 2003 VoIP with unlimited calls to landlines in metropolitan France 2004 Phone subscription included (total unbundling), Box WiFi 2005 Unlimited international calls to landlines in 15 countries 2006 Unlimited international calls to landlines in 28 countries 2007 Unlimited international calls to landlines in 49 countries 2009 Unlimited international calls to landlines in 103 countries 2011 Unlimited calls to mobiles in metropolitan France Source: IDATE Mobile VoIP report, Strong regulatory influence on declining telco revenues Roaming EU regulation of roaming tariffs became effective in 2007 for voice calls and was subsequently extended to SMS and wholesale data in The Commission, the Parliament and the Council have agreed to entirely abolish roaming surcharges in Although the legacy regulation has already significantly reduced roaming prices and revenues, the impact of this measure will be non-negligible; Berenberg Bank estimates the impact may be 2% of revenue and 5% for European operators. In some cases, the level might be much higher, for instance up to 10% of revenues and 15% of EBITDA in the case of Belgium s Mobistar Mobile termination rates Termination rates in the mobile sector are subject to intense regulatory scrutiny. Within a few years, and driven by the Commission s 2009 recommendation on the treatment of termination rates, the fees that operators receive for terminating a call have fallen drastically and have reached levels of less than 1 cent per minute in certain countries (Figure 11). 2 Source: Berenberg

15 Figure 11 : EU27 MTR levels 2008 vs (EURct/min) Source: IDATE based on ERG/BEREC The magnitude of the impact on revenues becomes clear when comparing the weight of mobile termination charges in the overall average revenue per minute over time as shown in Figure 12 below. In 2008 this share exceeded 50%, whereas in 2014 MTR accounted only for a low double-digit or even single digit share of average revenue per minute. Figure 12 : MTR as share of avg. revenue per voice minute Source: IDATE 3.3. Peer competition as the root cause for declining mobile telephony prices Similarly to the SMS case, there are two patterns of countries depending on the state of peer competition. On the one hand there are countries such as France, with revenue decline through aggressive pricing (Figure 14). On the other hand there are countries such as Spain, receiving heavy impact of the economic recession (Figure 15).

16 Markets that saw disruptive pricing by a telco (such as France) show decreasing mobile revenues through telco competition over the years, irrespective of VoIP players In France, mobile operator Free entered the market in January 2012 with a very aggressive pricing structure, claiming their price of a mobile minute would be 5 cents on average, which was less than a third of the national average at the time. This disruption clearly caused a change in the evolution in voice minutes, not only on mobile but also on the fixed, as can be seen from the Figure 13 below. Figure 13 : Evolution of voice minutes in France, fixed and mobile, 2007 to 2014 Source: IDATE, based on Arcep figures Despite this growth in mobile consumption, however, the revenues generated are on the decrease, as can be seen from the figure below. It is worth noting that even before the introduction of Free s aggressive pricing, average monthly voice revenue was decreasing through price competition between the telcos; then with the introduction of Free at the beginning of 2012, the competition and thus revenue decrease accelerated (Figure 14). The following year saw even further decrease as the competitors of Free also reacted and more users took up the cheaper mobile voice options, all the while increasing in terms of actual time speaking (mobile voice volume).

17 Figure 14 : Evolution of average monthly mobile voice revenue per user in France, 2010 to 2014 Source: IDATE, based on Arcep figures Thus, in the case of France (and similar countries), peer competition has been causing mobile voice revenues to decrease over the last years, irrespective of VoIP players Markets that have seen no new aggressive (i.e. low cost) pricing show mobile revenue decline through economic recession, irrespective of VoIP players According to Berenberg Equity Research (BER), there is a correlation between a nation s GDP and mobile service revenue growth. It follows then, that countries such as Spain, under difficult economic circumstances, would be expected to show negative mobile service revenue growth in correlation with negative GDP. This certainly appears to be the case in Spain. Up until the recession, both volume and revenue for mobile voice was growing at a steady rate; however once the recession struck, users became much more price sensitive leading to a plateauing of volume and subsequent decline in voice revenues (figure 16). This decline has occurred irrespective of any VoIP players.

18 Figure 15 : Evolution of mobile voice minutes and revenues in Spain, 2000 to 2013 Source: IDATE, based on CNMC figures

19 4. There is in fact potential for growth from OTT VoIP and IM for telcos Mobile data revenues compensate SMS revenue decline When looking at solely the mobile data revenue, then one can see that data is in fact compensating for the decrease in SMS for the majority of countries. For example in Italy, from 2012 to 2013, SMS revenue saw a 25% decrease (from 2.1 billion EUR to 1.6 billion EUR), but was largely compensated for by the increase of data related services (up from 2.8 billion EUR in 2012 to 3.2 billion EUR in 2013), resulting in a 3% decrease overall (from 4.9 billion EUR in 2012 to 4.8 billion EUR in 2013) (Figure 16). Figure 16 : Mobile telecom reveues from data services in Italy, 2012 and 2013 Source: Agcom The same logic applies even for Spain which as we have seen is the hardest hit in terms of SMS revenue decline; the total of SMS revenues and data revenues continue an overall positive trend (from 2.5 billion EUR in 2007 increasing to 3.8 billion EUR in 2013), as can be seen from Figure 17 below. Figure 17 : Total of SMS and data revenue in Spain, 2007 to 2013 Source: IDATE, based on CNMC figures Most telcos have anticipated the likely erosion of voice and SMS revenues over time, making it all the more important to aggressively move to a data-centric business model and bundles. KPN for example explained in a 2012 Earnings Conference Call that Since [2010], we have been preparing for a new, data-focused challenger model. Today, our strategy is all about evolving into the data-centric challenge. This can be done by leveraging the IP network, and also through use of the cloud which offers efficient operating cost models. Many operators are already shifting to a data-driven model emphasizing

20 increasing data consumption and operational savings to offset the decline in voice and messaging revenue. In a data world, growth is accomplished by increasing the number of connected devices (or even objects). This data-driven model is already seen in the U.S. market where telcos have rolled out shared data plans that include unlimited voice and SMS, with an additional payment per device (Figure 18). Figure 18 : Example of shared data plan from AT&T in the US Source: AT&T The development of alternative messaging solutions like WhatsApp presents also opportunities for telcos, with for instance subscription of data packages, favouring therefore the shift of business model. Indeed, one could point to the current most popular mobile applications on smartphones. As Figure 19 below demonstrates, 8 out of the top 10 applications are communication/social related 3, meaning that such services are driving the demand for telco data connection services, allowing for potential innovation in this area and also revenues. Some telcos are even using VoIP and IM services to lure subscribers to their data plans, as seen in the past for instance around Skype with 3UK or WhatsApp with Sunrise (zero rated approach). 3 One could argue that in fact all 10 applications are communication/social, as both Google Maps and YouTube contain services such as reviews and comments

21 Figure 19 : Top mobile apps worldwide Already in 2012, Vodafone had declared that We all know that actually the whole telecommunication infrastructure is moving into data, and the telcos are taking on this challenge to shift their traditional business model to a data-centric model. As Mats Granryd, CEO of Swedish operator Tele2 declared at the Mobile World Congress in March 2015: If WhatsApp is going to give free voice no problem. They ll have to use my pipe. We from Tele2 view them [OTT players] as our best friends. We try and build a force for good partnership with them because they drive consumption. People will use my pipe and I ll make more money. MNO s in the future, the text and voice will be free. The only way of making money is to charge properly for data.

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