Editor's take: telecom: M&A, 5G and device/service advancements

Telecom had an eventful start to 2019 with many headline-grabbing developments occurring in Q1. While many of the big trends didn't just come out of the blue -- many business deals have been in the works for some time, and companies have been working on new phones and advanced networks -- the quarter was one of industry players taking major steps forward for telecom.

SmartBrief readers have been keeping a close eye on these evolving trends in our telecom and wireless newsletters, but generally speaking, the big stories in the first three months of this year have fallen into three major categories: mergers and acquisitions, the movement toward 5G and advances in hardware and services.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Despite the Justice Department's opposition, the AT&T-Time Warner merger was approved, Nexstar has acquired Tribune Media and it looks as though the Sprint-T-Mobile deal is going to move forward as well. The Federal Communications Commission has currently stopped the “shot clock” on the latter to ask for comments about “substantial new information” – in this case, the proposed home internet service from the unified companies.

Where we go from here: While the Sprint-T-Mobile merger still needs a final sign off, the leaders of both companies are promising that the result will be lower prices, more rural broadband access and faster movement on 5G. Some outsiders are skeptical and the results, of course, will have to be seen in the future. The AT&T-Time Warner deal, which has gone through, is part of a growing consolidation between television and internet service providers and has the potential to change the video/content landscape, while the Nexstar-Tribune union has created another media behemoth.

Services and Devices

Folding screens and other new capabilities marked smartphones this year.  In the middle of this device growth, there’s also a contrary movement away from physical tech, with streaming services for television, video games, news gaining ground and this content is often crossing platforms to meet consumers where they want to consume it.

Where we go from here: Apple and Google’s recent forays into streaming will be developments to watch, as customer reaction to cross-platform services from the major telecom and tech players will provide key signs of where this area is headed.

5G

The next generation of networking is arriving fast, at least in some aspects of the roll out.  Telecoms have started testing 5G networks in select cities, manufacturers have begun putting out phones capable of working with these networks and the FCC is getting behind the technology by auctioning off the necessary spectrum.

Where we go from here: If industry analysts are right, 5G is likely to affect every other topic touched on in this piece, from services and devices that take advantage of higher speeds and better connectivity to mergers based on 5G capability and customer response. Networks capable of high-speed data in a wide variety of locations can truly change our approach to technology.

With the sun setting on Q1, the future looks full of potential surprises and telecoms look poised to deliver on their advanced network and device promises.  In the Q2 report, we will take a look back and see what ends up happening with these trends—and what unexpected events the next three months produce.

Straight from the source -- read the top telecom stories from Q1

  1. AT&T's Stankey addresses rumors, vision, frugality
  2. New WarnerMedia executive team hosts employee town hall
  3. T-Mobile goes after Big Cable with home broadband service
  4. AT&T outlines executive roles at WarnerMedia
  5. T-Mobile CEO offers to help smaller carriers drop Huawei
  6. Nexstar unloads stations for $1.32B after Tribune takeover
  7. Apple's new video service raises more questions than answers
  8. DIRECTV streamlines package pricing
  9. Cook: Apple will lead cable bundle evolution
  10. Motorola Razr will return in foldable form

Isabel Kunkle is SmartBrief's telecommunications editor.

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