Thursday, February 10, 2005

Some Q4 highlights

It's that time of year again, when companies begin to bombard us with facts, figures, and spin. Today we had BT Group and France Telecom reporting, with very little time in between, which is unwelcome news to a one-man show like myself. Anyway, here are some interesting tidbits I picked up on from the four hours of presentations I endured.

BT Group - 813k net DSL additions in Q4 at the wholesale level (that's nearly double the comparable quarter last year), but the retail share of net adds fell to 26%, which Retail's CEO described as "disappointing." Retail's New Wave revenues were up 38%YoY in the quarter, but were still GBP86m short of compensating for the loss of traditional revenues, and this shortfall has grown over the past three quarters. Ben Verwaayan said the Bluephone trials underway were proving satisfactory in terms of voice quality, coverage and handoff to GSM, and the soft-launch is on track for Spring. Retail seems to not feel it's in a position to launch video until end of 2005, or early 2006, and stressed that other people do linear TV better already in the UK market, so why try to replicate it? I still take this to mean Freeview in the STB, but I'm also intrigued by the fact that BT is on 2wire's customer list, which makes me wonder if there is something happening for BT on the alternative free satellite front with the BBC, which "Auntie" seems quite keen to move on.

UPDATE: An astute reader points out that 2wire was first mentioned in the broadband strategy presentation back in March 2004, in relation to the home gateway. However, in this interview by Ted Shelton, 2wire's CEO says that the company is pitching satellite deals for all its partners. I'm more curious than ever now.

France Telecom - A lot of talk here too about new platforms and services, but FT is somewhat further down the track. To the end of December, Wanadoo had rented 234k Freebox units, averaging 26k per week, and sold 35k MaLigne subscriptions in December alone, taking the total to 75k. Whether there is any connection or not is unclear, but it is noteworthy that Wanadoo's share of net additions in DSL in the quarter rose again, to 41.6%, the second consecutive improvement. Another thing about FT's results which surprised me was a sequential increase in PSTN lines (100k), and a deceleration in the rate of decline in consumer voice volumes over Q3's poor performance.

More fun and games in the days ahead, with TeliaSonera tomorrow, same bear time, same bear channel...

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