Facebook's Mobile Future, Handset-Subsidy Changes Among Top 10 Trends for 2013

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Facebook will go "all in on mobile" and changes in subsidies will come at a cost to operators next year. Those are two of Informa Telecoms & Media's top 10 trends for 2013, released on Wednesday.

Five of the researcher's predictions relate directly to telcos and other five cover TV, digital media and the over-the-top (OTT) communications sector.

“We reckon that 2013 is going to be another tough year for the telecoms industry with a continued emphasis on cost control," said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media. “For operators, the migration to a data-centric business and revenue model will continue apace. And we see risks for those operators that do not invest properly in building wide-area networks that can deliver high-quality data services. When it comes to new services, there will be a continued usage migration to smartphones and tablets. But both established and new players are trying to figure out how best to monetize mobile usage. Don’t be surprised to see some of the disruptors being disrupted by new technologies and business models in 2013."

Here's Informa's list of trends: 

1. Wi-Fi will become a victim of its own success. There will be a shift in operator sentiment away from public Wi-Fi as it becomes evident that the growing availability of free-to-end-user Wi-Fi devalues the mobile-broadband business model. Mobile operators will respond by articulating the value of their cellular networks better, but others not affected by this trend will double down on their public Wi-Fi investments to continue to propel the deployment and monetization of Wi-Fi.

2. Facebook goes all in on mobile. Facebook is having a tough time translating its popularity on mobile devices into revenues. Although its most recent financial results at last showed some improvement in mobile advertising revenues, Informa doesn't believe that this alone will be enough to sustain and grow its mobile business. There are three new monetization strategies currently available to Facebook: 1) develop new premium services to sell to its existing customers; 2) take a share of revenues from third-party content providers that develop services on its platform; or 3) expand into the device or device software business. Informa believes that the first two are Facebook’s preferred options and that billing and marketing/distribution relationships with operators, particularly in emerging markets, could bring tangible benefits. With regards to the devices business, the researcher expects Facebook to emerge as a strong backer of the new Mozilla mobile operating system which is expected to challenge Android in the low-cost smartphone device sector.

3. What’s up with WhatsApp? The hype bubble around WhatsApp and other OTT messaging services will continue to expand in 2013, especially driven by frequent acquisition rumors, but the emergence of early anecdotal evidence that some consumer segments are starting to migrate their attention and usage to alternative services, both old and new, will start to dampen expectations and highlight the fickle and fragmented nature of consumer behavior.

4.  Digital services: Show us the money. Investors will demand a clear path to revenue from investments into digital services before operators begin to feel any share-price benefit from initiatives. PR-friendly they may be, but demands and expectations from shareholders will grow that they are also friendly to the bottom line. It will become apparent to many operators that material revenue streams that can shift the dial of group-level revenues will be very hard to come by.

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