Fresh research by GSMA Intelligence suggested the mobile industry suffered less financial impact due to Covid-19 (coronavirus) than the broader economy, despite inevitable hits to revenue from roaming, handset upgrades and the enterprise sector.
In its latest Global Mobile Trends 2021 report, Navigating Covid-19 and Beyond, the analyst company found the hit on mobile revenue in the five countries most affected by Covid-19 in terms of the number of deaths recorded was about half the effect on overall GDP in high income nations.
While the performance was “worse than tech and internet groups such as Facebook and Google” the mobile industry fared “far better” than retail, travel and hospitality.
In developing countries, mobile revenue growth actually “outperformed the economy”, with mobile typically the default communications tool.
GSMA Intelligence identified four key areas affected: roaming revenue was impacted by travel restrictions; retail store closures hit handset sales; corporate and SME business challenges; and general pressure on consumer spending, particularly in the prepaid sector.
It said financial reports from AT&T, Telefonica, Telecom Italia and others pointed to a negative impact in the range of 4 per cent to 8 per cent of overall revenue.
GSMA Intelligence highlighted network resilience as a standout positive, as operators coped with data traffic hikes of between 50 per cent and 100 per cent.
Although the overall market value fell by a quarter, analysts predicted “it will recover in line with the wider economy in 2021”. Longer-term growth will rely more on 5G, particularly in the enterprise market.
5G, open RAN
GSMA Intelligence noted the pandemic impacted 5G deployments in January and February, but said the pace held steady from March on.
In total, 113 operators across 48 countries have launched the technology, with the industry tipped to spend 80 per cent ($890 billion) of capex on 5G over the next five years.
Continued declines in the price of compatible smartphones is expected to boost adoption in 2021, with GSMA Intelligence consumer research finding 37 per cent plan to upgrade.
Manufacturing was cited as the enterprise sector with the highest potential for 5G.
GSMA Intelligence also tipped open RAN to increase competition among equipment vendors, with 57 per cent of operators stating they plan to bring new manufacturers on board.
It noted the approach made major strides in 2020, representing a “paradigm shift in the way networks are made” and run.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back