BBWN Bites: CenturyLink Considers Consumer Biz Fate, Mid-Eastern Moves
There's an international flavor to our news bites again as we highlight broadband news from US-based CenturyLink, head to the Middle East for snippets from Oman, Iran and Egypt, before heading to the UK for an upbeat, non-profit fiber tale. And don't miss insight into the ongoing battle between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant: Who's winning hearts -- or homes -- this year?
CenturyLink confirmed it is reviewing the future of its consumer business and engaged external advisors to guide its decision. Although the division continues to "make significant contributions to our profitability and free cash flow," the review will allow CenturyLink to "better maximize the value of this asset," said CEO Jeff Storey during its Q1 2019 earnings call, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript. Revenue for the consumer group declined 8.1% year-over-year and 1.8% sequentially. Broadband revenue -- which accounts for half of all consumer revenue -- grew 1.3% over the prior year and 2.7% versus the prior quarter.
"Part of our efforts in the consumer business is to make sure that we're maximizing the value there, but it's also to make sure that we are continuing to focus on the enterprise business, our fiber business, our fiber network and expanding all of those capabilities in the products and services that we sell to the market. We're also trying to figure out how do we take the needs of multiple customers and package them together? So, for example, our 5G customers: how do we take 5G, package what we're building for 5G in with our enterprise customers and adding new on that buildings? How do we package that in with our consumer customers and can we get fiber closer to our consumers and make it more effective -- multiple dwelling units especially come to mindů And so how do we leverage all of those customer needs to build the infrastructure. And if that tells us to apply the gas, we will."
During a keynote discussion at Light Reading's Big 5G Event in Denver this week, CenturyLink CTO Andrew Dugan shared how the operator's fixed infrastructure is supporting the 5G strategies of US mobile operators. In addition to providing wired infrastructure that supports mobile services and deploying fiber that's crucial for macro and small cells, CenturyLink also working with some wireless providers on their edge computing strategies, Dugan said: CenturyLink has 3,500 sites with the space and power needed for the edge computing systems mobile operators are looking to deploy, reported Stephen Lawson in Light Reading.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are practically neck-and-neck in the battle for smart-speaker leadership, according to a forecast from Strategy Analytics. These smart-home mainstays face competition from more than a dozen other voice OS platforms, wrote report author David Watkins, service director at the research firm. Amazon Alexa had a 37.7% share of sales in 2018, but that's expected to fall to 31.7% in 2019, according to the research firm's forecasts. Google's Assistant, on the other hand, is set to boost its market share to 31.4% in 2019 from 30.3% in 2018, Strategy Analytics predicted. Both developers will see overall unit growth: Global sales of all smart speakers is expected to hit 135 million in 2019, a growth rate of 57% versus last year. Other voice OS systems set to command the remaining 36.9% of the 2019 market include Apple's Siri, Alibaba's Ali Genie, Baidu's Duer OS and Xiaomi's Xiao AI, according to Strategy Analytics.
Battle on the Home Front
Focusing now on the Middle East: Egyptian mobile operator Etisalat Misr plans to offer a commercial fixed-line service within two years, CEO Hazem Metwally recently told Reuters.
Iran's government said it will open state-owned fiber networks to third-party service providers, according to a report from the Financial Tribune. Iran's Communications Regulatory Authority now is inviting operators to apply to use extra capacity on networks that Infrastructure Communications Corp. (TIC) deployed. The state-backed operator could soon work with independent broadband providers such as Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), Pars Online, Shatel, MobinNet and MTN Irancell.
To support its efforts to bring high-speed broadband to 95% of urban premises in the Sultanate of Oman by 2030, Oman Broadband partnered with NTest's FiberWatch to gain visibility into its entire network, into each home or business optical network terminal (ONT), allowing the Sultanate-owned provider to reduce downtime and enhance customer service, said Troy Veitenheimer, NTest general manager. Oman Broadband also wants to close the rural connectivity gap by next year by deploying broadband infrastructure into less populated regions. The provider has more than 15,000 kilometers (about 9,000-plus miles) of fiber passing more than 370,000 homes, said Majid Al Kharoosi, general manager of Operations and Maintenance at Oman Broadband.
Heading now to Wales, this week saw the debut of non-profit Pure Fibre Housing, which intends to bring a high-speed broadband backbone network to housing associations (similar to subsidized housing in the US). Pure Fibre is part of the i4 Technology Group, founded by Welsh fiber entrepreneur Elfed Thomas (formerly of i3 Technology and H2O Networks). Pure Fibre is working on its first project with Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd (CCG), one of the largest housing associations in North Wales. Under the partnership, residents of two new developments will receive full-fiber broadband and gigabit speeds when they take ownership of these new abodes this month. Numerous local ISPs then can connect to Pure Fibre's infrastructure and compete for residents' business, based on price, service and other capabilities. The i4 Group, which also encompasses British Fibre Networks, intends to connect pure fiber to more than 35% of new homes by 2021.
Welcome to Our Infrastructure
Abbasi Shahkou, CEO of Iran's Infrastructure Communications Corp., is opening the country's broadband backbone up to ISPs.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.