FBR: Telcos & Service Providers Moving from "feeds and speeds" to "higher-margin managed services"/Home grown CDNs?

In a report today on Level 3 Communications (LVLT), FBR analyst David Dixon makes the case that enterprise customers of private line, VPN, voice trunking and other transport services are moving to the cloud for those and more.  Dixon wrote:

“We see (service provider) companies offering bundled cloud, transport, and access services (where access services are heavily discounted to secure higher-value cloud services) and believe the company cost structure may shift more than expected due to the change in the nature of content relationships over time, perhaps driving a review of peering interconnections with end-user networks and potential migration of customers to single integrated wireline/wireless providers.”

Continuing, “Level 3’s  guidance depends on a number of “X factors” over the near future, including sustaining positive enterprise growth and more aggressive dark fiber sales. We are seeing more appetite from wireless network providers for dark fiber (to locations already served with leased lit fiber) as their architecture shifts get underway. The risk is that these companies may confine LVLT to providing lower-margin transport services. In the CDN (Content Delivery Network) segment, we like the current momentum but see this business pressured over time by the irreversible mix shift of Internet traffic toward “two-way” content increasingly distributed on cloud-based architectures that provide compute AND storage.”

In his analysis of Akamai’s earnings report, Dixon wrote: “Fundamentally, we are concerned about the increased pressure on Akamai’s CDN-based business model over time” for exactly the same reason- customer migration to cloud compute and storage services.  Akamai is the company behind FaceBook, Apple, and other massive global web properties. The company claims to deliver 30% of all Web traffic. Akamai is rated as a top notch CDN, with 96 out of the 100 top online retailers in the U.S. relying on Akamai’s CDN.  http://www.akamai.com/

Earlier this week, the WSJ reported: Apple Quietly Builds New Networks

Apple was said to be “stitching together a network of Internet infrastructure capable of delivering large amounts of content to customers, giving the company more control over the distribution of its online offerings while laying the groundwork for more traffic if it decides to move deeper into television.”

That might adversely effect Akamai’s future revenues. “DeepField says Apple distributes most of its Internet content through Akamai’s network of servers. Akamai executives recently said they are renegotiating a multiyear contract with their top customer, a process that typically results in lower fees for the company.”

Akamai’s CEO Tom Leighton hinted at the news that Apple may be thinking of going it alone for a CDN with this comment to industry analysts: “Any very large media customer at one time or another is looking at a do-it-yourself solution. It’s a lot harder than people think, though. What may have seemed like a good idea at the time, over a period of years, often doesn’t.”