What’s up with… UCaaS, Vodafone, Twitter

  • Demand for UCaaS rises
  • Vodafone Ghana sale to Telecel Group reportedly stalled by regulators
  • The Twitter-Musk saga goes on

Since the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, remote and hybrid working is not only now firmly established but is becoming the norm for many organisations. That sudden, forced shift in working patterns that had been set in stone for more than 170 years drove the rapid development of technologies and video-conferencing software required to keep employees both productive and happy in a new world of work. Now, a new press release from TelcoSwitch, a rapidly growing unified communications and compliance solutions company founded in 2015 and headquartered in London, reveals that unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) is the most in-demand communication strategy for the channel. In a survey conducted late last year by Statista, the Hamburg, Germany-based provider of market and consumer data, for its Future of Work report, 92% of CIOs polled cited the “expanded use of collaboration platforms'' as one of the most important remote work technologies used by their business. Furthermore, 72% said virtual collaboration tools were one of their main areas for investment. TelcoSwitch says a quarter of CIOs believe that the effective monitoring of the quality of their unified communications tools is the most critical aspect of managing the employee experience. Meanwhile, 31% also believed that the ability to rapidly deploy collaboration tools is one of the greatest challenges they face, with 27% citing the strains placed on helpdesks as a major hurdle along the road to achieving that goal. To maximally exploit the demand for collaboration services, channel organisations still need to ensure they have a firm grasp of the basics. This means keeping track of market trends to ensure that customers are being asked the right questions. This is particularly important given that UCaaS continues to evolve quickly. TelcoSwitch’s head of sales, Sam Giggle (and yes, his name did provoke an early morning smile when I read it, and I’ll bet that’s the first time he’s heard the joke – today), commented: “The UK collaboration software market is expected to grow from £691m to almost £1bn over the next five years. This growth represents a significant opportunity to join a UCaaS marketplace where cloud-based collaboration solutions continue to gain popularity.” He added: “The channel is experiencing a unique period and the opportunities for growth are immense. The demand for UCaaS solutions is clear to see, with TrustRadius research reporting that 67% of companies increased spending on communications in 2021 to ensure video conferencing was included.”

The reported sale of Vodafone Ghana to the Telecel Group last week was followed by reports of confusion from Bloomberg – see What’s up with… 2 August. Then came news that the sale had been blocked. This was swiftly followed with a denial from the Ghanaian regulator to the effect that it hadn’t blocked the sale – it just hadn’t approved it… yet. Now, Modern Ghana News reports that Telecel, headed by French tycoon Hugues Mulliez, is still in talks with the Ghanaian authorities to push the transaction through.

The unedifying saga of Elon Musk’s acquisition/non-acquisition of Twitter continues on its backbiting way. The social media company is suing America’s very own Nostradamus for apparently reneging on the proposed $44 bn deal, which got Twitter and its investors, well, all of a twitter less than five months ago. Yesterday Mr Musk’s sealed countersuit was made public when its contents were reported in The Washington Post newspaper. Elon is not particularly noted for his diplomatic skills and his riposte is as ‘pow! Biff! Thwack! Take that!’ as might be expected. In essence, he accuses Twitter of, shall we say, burnishing its credentials when it comes to the reality of the size of its advertising base and the accounts that actually generate advertising revenues. His countersuit has it that the more he found out about the processes and systems that Twitter uses to authenticate its accounts, the more he realised that he was being sold a pup. Last week, Musk, the world’s richest man, well this week anyway, commented, “I do understand the product quite well” and continues to think that owning a big social media company that isn’t Twitter, would be a good idea. After all, more than 100 million followers regularly read his deathless tweets. The countersuit argues that while Twitter says it has a base of 238 million monetisable daily active users, the number of them that actually see adverts is 173 million, 65 million less than claimed. Furthermore, the majority of advertising is seen by fewer than 16 million users, and that constitutes a mere 7% of the number of users Twitter claims can potentially earn it revenue. Musk wants the courts to recognise that Twitter’s methods for counting what, in reality, are bot and spam accounts have “a material adverse effect” which significantly affect the underlying value of the company. This, the countersuit alleges, is fraudulent, in breach of contract and a contravention of the Texas Securities Act. The papers also say, “Twitter played a months-long game of hide-and-seek to attempt to run out the clock before the Musk Parties could discern the truth about these representations, which they needed to close. The more Twitter evaded even simple inquiries, the more the Musk Parties grew to suspect that Twitter had misled them.” Unsurprisingly, Musk wants Twitter to pay him damages – getting to Mars is expensive, you know. In response, Twitter has issued a list of rebuttals to the countersuit including the allegation that Musk  “cherry-picks” numbers and has “misrepresented” how Twitter’s online ad system works. And so on (and on and on) it goes. 

Six million UK households are struggling to afford essential telecoms services (mobile and broadband) and are cutting back on food and clothing to make ends meet, according to UK consumer watchdog Which? It estimates that 5.7 million households are feeling the pain, and it’s only likely to worsen once the full impact of increased energy costs kicks in this winter. The consumer organisation advocates that the government cut the 20% VAT rate for telecoms to 5% to bring comms costs into line with other essential services, such as gas and electricity – a notion that will no doubt sit well with telecoms industry executives since there will be less pressure on them to make profit-sapping price reductions if the government is slashing its own slice of the cake.

In the UK, out-of-control inflation of energy prices is being blamed for increasing bank interest rates, higher unemployment and the country being stuck in recession not only for the last quarter of 2022 but also for the entirety of 2023. Economies are under pressure all over the world and, with the US also either teetering on the verge of recession or already in one, the future looks bleak. Unsurprisingly, consumers are tightening their belts and saving money where they can, and one comparatively quick and easy way is to cancel optional expenditure on paid-for streaming services as they turn to providers of free content, even if it comes with a tsunami of unavoidable advertising. It seems more likely by the day that paid-for streaming media services could experience the worst downturn in their history. As we have seen, big tech companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, are feeling the pinch after reporting profit figures 20% and more down on the previous quarter – although their share prices remain resilient, for the time being at least. On the streaming front, Netflix shares are up by 30% after a disastrous first half, but can that surge last? Well, possibly, given that Netflix (and others) are introducing new, free subscription tiers supported by blanket advertising. In the US, projections are that ad-based streaming will grow by 9% this year, to 140 million viewers. It means advertisers’ revenues will also grow – by 33% (to almost $19bn) over the course of this year alone, with more to follow – as economies stall and people have less discretionary money to spend. It looks as though ad-supported on-demand streaming services, such as Freevee, Pluto TV, Roku, Tubi and the rest of them, will do well during what is shaping-up to be a long, deep downturn. Meanwhile the paid-for streaming service companies will have to contend with unprecedented levels of subscriber churn and will be doing their best to ensure that their base doesn’t dwindle to the point that it threatens the existence of the organisations themselves.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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