Looking Ahead to 2017 – Some Predictions

December 30th, 2016 by · 19 Comments

Look into the Crystal BallHappy New Year to everyone!  It’s been quite a year, with both good and bad as usual – not to mention truly perplexing.  It’s usually quiet during the last week of the year due to the holidays, but this time the silence out there seems greater than usual.  It’s as if everyone is holding their breath, unsure of what 2017 will bring.  Well, what better time to dust off the old crystal ball and make a few predictions?

  • Sprint and T-Mobile USA will announce another merger attempt.  Ok, so I’m starting out shooting a fish in a barrel.  Softbank’s Masayoshi Son isn’t actively buttering up Donald Trump already because he wants to be on Celebrity Apprentice.  Subtlety won’t be on the menu, they’ll move quickly on this.
  • Net Neutrality will face a serious, early challenge.  Yes, another politically-related one.  But given the dramatic shift likely at the FCC, it’s hard not to make this one.  Before the FCC actually gets around to rewriting the rules that are currently in place, one or more of the major incumbent, cable, or wireless providers will introduce new products or initiatives that would have been instantly met with howls from public advocacy groups in 2016.  The reasoning will be simply to push the FCC to fish or cut bait at a time when it looks like they’d rather cut bait.
  • SDWAN will drive the enterprise market.  We have seen some of this in 2017, as providers rev up for perceived demand for the most visible enterprise-focused benefit of SDN.  It’s not just perceived, the revenues will start to flow this year and the companies winning them will be the ones that gain marketshare.
  • Two of the following six network operators will be bought this year.  Yes, I know I completely whiffed on this one in 2016, but if at first you don’t succeed…
    • Cogent Communications (because eventually someone will decide they can do more with the same assets than pay dividends)
    • Colt (because I don’t believe private ownership by Fidelity is the long term plan)
    • FiberLight (because they are one of the biggest supra-regional, pure fiber plays still out there)
    • Lumos Networks (see FiberLight)
    • Wilcon (single market/region specialists will be on the menu this year)
    • DQE Communications (see Wilcon)
  • Despite the above, US fiber consolidation will slow.  The two factors here are that a) many of the likely buyers will be busy integrating recent purchases, and b) the likely target list is shrinking. The bigger buyers this year will be Zayo, Lightower, Uniti Fiber, Crown Castle, and Comcast.
  • Zayo will make a major European move. Now that Level 3 is busy in a merger dance with CenturyLink and Zayo’s own integration of the Viatel assets is complete, Zayo’s next move seems obvious:  buy something pan-European with metro depth.  That could be Colt, Interoute, euNetworks, or multiple smaller infrastructure assets, whatever is actually available.
  • NFV’s buzz will give way to concrete implementations, but it will also face a dose of reality.  It will be analagous to the challenges VoIP once faced.  Just because you’re the future doesn’t mean you have a quick path to migrating legacy revenues onto new infrastructure that is really cool but initially does mostly the same core tasks already being done.  One of the lessons of the last 20 years is that nothing ever happens as fast as the buzz makes you think it will.

That’s my list.  What’s yours?  Make your own predictions in the comments below!

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Categories: Government Regulations · Mergers and Acquisitions

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19 Comments So Far

  • Anonymous says:

    comcast buys zayo, than next year or two rolls up wireless carrier T-Mobile/sprint ( they merger as well)

  • Anonymous says:

    Crown Castle makes 1st new year acquisition and continues all year long w smaller targeted regional companies

    • mhammett says:

      “smaller targeted regional companies”

      This. There are hundreds of smaller companies building with various maturity. Every year I assume there is massive consolidation among small players that we just don’t see. Eventually enough of those will get big enough to catch bigger eyes.

  • Rog says:

    Notably missing from the list that I think has been on everyone’s radars for years now is Sprint Wireline. With further consolidation on the Long Haul fiber routes I think Sprint Wireline is now more valuable as an asset. Seems like a good target for Comcast.

    CS&L/Uniti will definitely be picking up some more fiber & towers. Fiberlight if they want to stay on the path to serving the Wireless industry and UPN if they plan to expand the customer base and build out more organically.

    I’d be curious to hear what anyone thinks Telia will be up to this year if anything. They are a big player that has been flying under the radar.

  • Anonymous says:

    At the risk of being totally inane, but of course, aren’t most prediction attempts? Here goes:

    1. Google does another 180, sort of, and buys Verizon’s FIOS network and subscribers.
    2. Rising interest rates force debt-laden companies such as FTR and WIN to restructure, sell out, or take more drastic measures.
    3. Sprint/Softbank announce the acquisition of TMOB but before the deal is completed, an Amazon drone crashes into a Sprint tower, causing significant damage. After a war of words between Bezos and Son, the POTUS holds a meeting between all parties to reach an accord. Dismissing all other parties, Bezos launches a successful hostile bid for TMOB. We later learn that Russians had hacked the drone.

  • Hey Rob P. says:

    What are your predictions on Lightower? They have been buyers but are still privately owned by Berkshire. What is the end game here?

  • ilovecopper says:

    Zayo buys Level 3 , Comcast buys Lightower, Zayo buys TMobile, Ligtower buys Sprint, Verizon buys Zayo, ATT buys Lightower and we are left with the mom and pop Ma Bell , Verizon and ATT. just like the old days.

  • The Bob's says:

    Anyone know when the Level 3 CenturyLink layoffs will start?

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