As part of CCS Insight’s Predictions for 2024 and Beyond event last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Allera, CEO of UK operator EE. You can watch the interview below, but first, let me recap what we covered.
We started by talking about the concept of “new EE”, the next chapter for the brand, which will see it move beyond just providing the connectivity it’s known for. Instead, it will use it as a strong foundation to innovate and do more for customers, all with a fresher and more engaging identity. It will launch officially tomorrow and CCS Insight clients will be able to read our full analysis shortly after. The unveiling comes about 18 months after EE was installed by parent company BT Group as its flagship brand in the consumer market.
Explaining the rationale for new EE, Marc said that although the operator’s role has never been more important, its ambition was to grow a greater “share of mind-set” among consumers. Expanding, he said the initial focus would be on getting more customers engaging with its app every day, visiting its stores and speaking to its call centres. New EE aims to achieve that by taking advantage of the company’s scale, pushing into new markets, connecting more devices and becoming more influential in the lives of its 24 million customers.
As part of the interview, I asked Marc about the big development in the UK market this year: the announcement of a planned merger between rivals Vodafone and Three, which is being scrutinized by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
BT is yet to set out its official position on the merger, but Marc made it clear there are some big questions for the CMA to consider, including issues related to the share of mobile spectrum and the future of existing network-sharing arrangements.
I also wanted to hear Marc’s view on a couple of our most punchy operator predictions. Firstly, I brought up the hot topic of e-SIM, a technology that could bring major changes to telecom operators and their customers. We’re predicting that by 2029, all new cellular connections in at least one leading telecom market are made through e-SIM, a milestone that would herald the beginning of the end for the physical SIM card.
Although he was positive about the benefits of the technology, Marc said that customer adoption would heavily depend on the device road map of major manufacturers. He added that the industry shouldn’t just think about e-SIM as a smartphone story, pointing out that it can also play an important role in overcoming barriers to connecting other devices like laptops, tablets and smart home products. He also highlighted that there will be many older devices using traditional plastic SIM cards that could stymie long-term customer transition.
I then put to Marc one of our more controversial predictions this year, that Google will launch a consumer broadband service in at least one European market by 2026.
Marc first reflected on the historically strong level of competition in the telecom market, not just through rival networks but also from specific virtual operators and even energy companies. He said the prospect of new players remains likely as barriers to entry continue to fall. But he sounded a word of caution to aspiring newcomers, pointing out how tough it is to be successful, even for an industry leader like EE with all its experience. Most important, he added, is the expertise operators already have in security, noting that EE, as part of the BT Group family, has more than 3,000 people working on cybersecurity to protect its networks and customers from vulnerabilities.
Without mentioning Google specifically, Marc noted that large tech companies find themselves under much more regulatory scrutiny today than they have in the past. He said there’s a greater focus on accountability for managing the data and experiences that run across their platforms, and wondered whether regulation could prompt them to reconsider their business models and move into different areas.
As in the past, Marc generously shared a couple of predictions of his own. His first was on cloud gaming, an area of growing focus and a clear priority for the future of new EE. He suggested this market is ready for major disruption — such as through consolidation, the emergence of new competitors or a radical shift in focus from an existing company — and added that this could open many new opportunities.
His other prediction was focused on the narrative about broadband speeds. Marc believes it’s time messaging evolved from “speeds to the home” to “speeds in the home”, and that the industry needs to do more to educate and support customers to ensure the access speed is reliably distributed throughout the house.
It was an insightful and interesting discussion, and I’d like to thank Marc for his time. You can watch the full interview below.
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