The Race to Unlimited Data Will Cause Consumer-Carrier Friction; the Focus on Content Drives New M&A Activity; International Data Roaming is Poised for Disruption; and Sponsored Data Will Flourish on Consumer IoT Devices

SEATTLE – December 18, 2017 – Syntonic, a mobile platform and services provider, today unveiled its top predictions for the mobile ecosystem in 2018. Based on Syntonic’s extensive experience providing a suite of sponsored and paid access services through its Freeway offering in wireless markets around the world, the company evaluated the state of the mobile industry to forecast which segments will see the most opportunity and which will be most challenged. In looking ahead toward the new year – Syntonic anticipates tectonic industry shifts based on skyrocketing mobile data usage; evolving relationships between wireless carriers and content providers causing a surge of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity; an increasingly competitive unlimited data landscape; and new monetization trends in international roaming and IoT.

In developed economies, today’s always-connected consumer has embraced the mobile app ecosystem and is devoting more time than ever to the most data-heavy apps, such as music and video streaming. We now live in an app economy that is putting pressure on the entire mobile industry. According to eMarketer, apps accounted for nearly 85 percent of total mobile time and approximately 20 percent of total media time spent over the past year. Driven by the growing demand for more mobile content, the 2017 mobile landscape witnessed an unprecedented, unlimited data price war between the major U.S. mobile operators and ongoing M&A activity between telecom giants and content behemoths. While 2017 served as a turning point in the shift to a more content-centric industry landscape, 2018 will see that evolution come to a head as friction between consumer demand and carrier capabilities ignites the mobile ecosystem.

In 2018, Syntonic forecasts the following trends:

Unlimited data plans in the U.S. will become even more prevalent, yet more limited

In 2018, unlimited data plans will continue to permeate the wireless market; however, consumers will find these plans becoming more limited than ever. As carriers grapple with increases in mobile network utilization and congestion, more fine print will be included in “unlimited” plans in order to maintain quality of service and preserve profit margins. As a result, consumers in 2018 will be faced with degraded video quality, diminished streaming speeds, and throttled content, causing frustration and confusion around the benefits of “unlimited” data plans. To mitigate the shortcomings, carriers will offer an increasing number of add-on options for access to the higher quality of service previously included under unlimited plans. For example, some plans in the U.S. currently top out at 720p video resolution unless one pays $10 more a month per line to get the full HD experience. While the availability of unlimited plans will continue to prove popular in developed economies, expansion into emerging markets will be slow due to high costs and an upsurge of alternative models such as sponsored data, zero-rated apps, and content-first data plans.

Verizon makes a strategic move to acquire Time Warner after AT&T walks away  

In 2018, Verizon will go all-in on content and make a run to become a formidable entertainment company. The unrelentless efforts of regulators will lead AT&T to walk away from its proposed acquisition of Time Warner; however, Verizon remains ready to jump at the opportunity with a calculated willingness to abandon parts of Time Warner, such as CNN. In a déjà vu moment, this acquisition echoes the year 2000 acquisition of Time Warner by AOL, Verizon’s 2015 acquisition of AOL, and the irony that AOL and Time Warner will once again be under the same roof. The acquisition will be a critical turning point for Verizon’s larger strategic plans to transition from a mobile network operator to a global media company.

Vodafone makes a bid to re-enter the U.S. market to expand its global network

As the world’s fifth largest mobile operator by revenue, Vodafone will remain focused on continuing its global expansion efforts into the new year. Since Vodafone’s $130 billion divestment of Verizon Wireless in 2014 left the operator with zero presence in the U.S., Vodafone has been quietly making moves to re-enter the market. For example, it took steps to become a T-Mobile MVNO focused on the U.S. enterprise market. Now that Sprint and T-Mobile are free agents, both operators are on Vodafone’s radar, though the latter is more likely given Vodafone’s relationship with Softbank and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son’s desire to retain ultimate control.

International Data Roaming emerges as one of the largest carrier growth segments with the introduction of innovative business models to capture silent roamers

The international data roaming market is especially well positioned for disruption. Carriers will recognize the revenue opportunities of new roaming business models, such as sponsored offers, content-based plans, and micro data plans, that relieve the pain points that international travelers encounter while roaming. Legislation, especially that in the European Union, will force operators to lower tariffs, making the cost barrier more digestible for the general consumer traveler. Based on the evolving trends of content-hungry consumers, unlimited data plans, rampant mobile device adoption, and the growing demand for over-the-top services, the carriers in 2018 will embrace new international data roaming business models

Sponsored data lights up consumer IoT devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) has shaken up mobile and telecom industries with the rapid introduction of internet connected consumer devices, such as watches, glasses, and automotive technologies. In an effort to adapt to the rise of this market, wireless carriers have been forced to incorporate special consumer data plans for IoT devices. 2018 will see the broad scale use of sponsored data for entire classes of consumer device scenarios. For example, insurance companies will sponsor the telematics data for automobiles; fitness apps will sponsor wearable devices; and gaming platforms will sponsor AR and VR glasses. Sponsors will provide immediate benefits to consumers by offsetting IoT costs with ad and brand supported models.

 

About Syntonic
Syntonic (SYT.ASX) is a consumer and enterprise mobile platform services company that is transforming the mobile Internet with application-centric business and usage models. Syntonic’s Connected Services Platform™ supports both consumer sponsored content solutions and split-billing for corporate Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD) deployments. Founded in 2013, Syntonic has developed worldwide strategic partnerships with leaders in the mobile ecosystem. To learn more about Syntonic visit www.syntonic.com.

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Michelle Isacson
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