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This report looks at the changing role for communications service providers. It concludes that “the death of the telco” has been greatly exaggerated, but fundamental change will be necessary for CSPs to survive and thrive.


  • CSPs will remain at the heart of the digital economy, but revenue growth will continue to lag rapidly-increasing demand. Connectivity and communication will contribute $1.3 trillion (28%) of digital enablement revenues in 2025.
  • Only the largest, particularly in emerging markets, will remain in the value-added service opportunity. Disintermediation, high costs, skills gaps, cultural legacies, and competition will force all but the largest players or those in emerging markets away from value-added services.
  • CSP segments will evolve, and operational transformation will be essential. Changes to the CSP landscape will see the SMART player role elusive to all but a handful of CSPs. Irrespective of their role, operational efficiency will be essential.

Features and Benefits

  • Analyzes the outlook for communications service providers to 2025
  • Evaluates the changing roles of communications service providers over the next decade
  • Assesses how consolidation among communications service providers will evolve
  • Identifies the critical success factors for today's communications service providers looking to succeed to 2025

Key questions answered

  • How will the role of the communications service provider evolve to 2025?
  • What types of communications service providers will exist in 2025?
  • How will different types of communications service provider focus on customers, services, and operations?
  • How will communications service provider consolidation evolve to 2025?

Table of contents


  • In brief
  • Ovum view
  • Recommendations for communications service providers

CSPs will remain essential to the digital economy

  • Connectivity drives the CSP opportunity
  • Communications remains the CSP challenge
  • Demand not an issue for the future, but profitable supply will be

Value-added service opportunity declines as wholesale grows

  • TV and value-added service dream will be eroded
  • Wholesale to be more central to CSP services

Telecoms will remain a scale industry

  • Consolidation set to continue
  • Different forms of scale for different players
  • Fixed–mobile consolidation to become even more important
  • Mobile-only players still feasible with scale
  • Joining together the old and new will be a key network challenge

Customer experience and agility dominates operations

  • The customer-adaptive enterprise applies to CSPs too
  • Organizational and structural change vital
  • Agility essential to meet the demands of the Second Digital Revolution
  • Build or buy? Partnerships needed across the service scope

Neutral carriers exploit the wholesale opportunity

  • A wide variety of roles
  • Driven by the need to provide end-to-end quality of service
  • A broader role powered by efficiency
  • Focusing on efficiency without the retail marketing burden

Retail connectivity providers to account for most CSPs

  • A retreat from value-added services for smaller players
  • A retail focus, but only for core CSP products

Only the strongest integrated service providers will remain

  • The role occupied by most CSPs today
  • Incumbents and emerging markets offer the greatest opportunities in 2025
  • Scale and brand are the key strengths, but come at considerable cost
  • CSP digital units need to be overhauled
  • Commercially driven functional separation: separating the integrated service provider and neutral carrier roles

CSPs highly unlikely to become SMART players (but not impossible)

  • The hub of the digital economy
  • Not an exclusively CSP role
  • Possible for select CSPs to become SMART players
  • Emerging markets offer the best opportunities for CSPs to become SMART players
  • SMART player role even less likely in developed markets
  • CSPs as SMART players must compete in all directions


  • Methodology
  • Further reading
  • Author

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