Telco subscriber numbers grow in H1 2018

(source: Unsplash/Christian Widell)

Last Updated on Friday, 15 March, 2019 at 10:43 am by Christian Keszthelyi

All segments of the electronic communications sector saw growing subscriber numbers in the first half of 2018, as compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the Communications Market Review (CMR) the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) published. Although landline phone and television subscriptions also grew, figures suggest they are boosted by bundle packages, while users move towards mobile usage.

The fixed broadband segment saw a year-on-year 6% rise in the number of subscriptions by the end of June 2018, with fast and ultra-fast connections speeding up by 26 percentage points to almost 72% of all fixed broadband subscriptions, MCA figures reveal. “The surge in demand for products supporting fast and ultra-fast download speeds underlines growth in the fixed broadband segment,” the MCA explains.

Bundle subscriptions dominated the market taking up 86% share of fixed broadband subscriptions by the end of June 2018. Over 86% of fixed broadband subscriptions were in a bundle at the end of the first half. Fixed broadband average revenue per user (ARPU) also shifted upwards as a result of several developments, including the steady rise in entry-level access fees and the increased demand for high-quality video content, according to the MCA. However, subscribers paid less per Mbit of download in H1 2018 than during the same period a year earlier.

Mobile world speaks up

Mobile subscriptions reached an outstanding 615,423 by the end of June 2018, a year-on-year growth of 2.4%. For a point of reference, the estimated total population of Malta and Gozo at the end of 2017 stood at 475,701, up by 3.3% when compared to 2016, according to statistics published by the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Malta in July 2018.

The contract segment saw a particularly robust take-up; the mobile subscriber base reached 35.4% by the end of June 2018. “This change reflects improved allowances with post-paid plans, which generally include bigger data caps and unlimited calls,” the MCA says.

Figures of the authority, however, show that end users are moving away from sending messages in their traditional sense (SMS) and fixed voice calling, as mobile data consumption is on the growth. Mobile data usage on a per user level jumped by 23.5% from an average of 5.1GB in the first half of 2017 to an average of 6.3GB in the first half of 2018, MCA says.

Bundles keep landlines and television alive

Fixed telephone subscriptions also registered an increase of more than 8,800 signups in the first half of 2018 over the same period of 2017. However, almost 70% of all the subscriptions occurred in the framework of bundle packages, and the actual usage of those lines are on a downslide as users move toward mobile services.

“The increase in fixed telephony subscriptions comes in the wake of operators’ generally incorporating fixed telephony services with all bundle packages. Despite the increased take-up, usage for this service continues to dwindle as end users switch to mobile telephony. In fact, during one year voice calls dropped by 7.0% and 5.5% respectively,” the MCA says.

The same tendency applies to the television sector. Although subscriptions were up by 9,326 to 161,697 by the end of the examined period, the MCA explains the growth with TV services becoming the part of bundles, similarly to landline phones. “Despite the increased take-up of this service, the ARPU for this segment continued to decline,” the MCA report says.

The full market review of the MCA is available for download at their official website.

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