Yesterday, the European Commission published its 15th Progress Report, which presents an overview of the single European electronic communications market in December 2009, including a look at the situation in each Member State on the basis of facts and figures provided by national regulators and market players.
According to the report, Portugal is again reported as the Member State which has the highest number of subscribers using an alternative operator for direct access (41.3% of subscribers) whereas the use of fixed number portability is very high and increased in 2009.
The report also highlights the fact that several operators have been investing in fibre and cable networks, noting that at the end of 2009 nearly three million households had access to high-speed broadband services.
The 15th report emphasizes that important measures were implemented in Portugal in 2009 in relation to the regulatory framework governing next generation access networks (NGA) with the aim of promoting investment in these networks, including obligations of access to public infrastructure, strengthening rights of way and promoting public and private investment. Five tenders were launched for the development of NGA networks in rural areas, defined based on the principle of technological neutrality.
Another aspect highlighted in the report concerns the adoption, by the regulator, of final measures in relation to the market of wholesale (physical) network infrastructure access at a fixed location (market 4) and wholesale broadband access (market 5), introducing geographic segmentation of the market and deregulating some areas, which account approximately for 61% of all retail broadband accesses.
According to the European Commission, Portugal has the second highest penetration rate of mobile broadband use at 16.1% in January 2010, only slightly below the fixed broadband penetration rate of (18.6 %).
The European Commission recognizes that competition has intensified in Portugal with the Portugal Telecom spin-off, and that the incumbent is now gaining a significant number of IPTV subscribers. Another trend noted in the report is the trend towards the use of bundled services: 7% of the population had subscribed to a bundled offer, with various quadruple play offers in the market including mobile broadband as part of the bundled offer. Note is also made of the existence of an evident increase of competition in the fixed and broadband markets, in terms of investment and the emergence of new offerings.
The report further emphasizes the continued growth of mobile penetration in Portugal (9 percentage points), reporting a penetration rate of 146.2 per 100 inhabitants, well above the European average (121.9 per 100 inhabitants). The prices of mobile voice services are below the European average, with prepaid services accounting for the largest number of customers (73%), one of the highest percentages in the EU.
The European Commission also highlights the change in portability rules and highlights ANACOM's growing concern with the needs of consumers, following the adoption of several pieces of legislation on this matter.
Meanwhile, the report indicates that the formal decision of the regulator as to the incumbent's concrete fibre obligations is still pending, although preliminary guidelines were issued in February 2009.
The Commission also reports that alternative operators are requesting more timely regulatory intervention regarding the installation of remote nodes in the incumbent's fixed network and the lack of an equal access to ducts compared to the incumbent's subsidiary.
Concerning the situation of the sector across the EU, the EC highlighted that it considers that consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive EU-wide telecoms market because of inconsistent application of EU telecoms rules.
The Commission also considers that most Member States' markets have become more competitive, but remain national in dimension. Moreover, the level of competitiveness varies strongly between Member States.
The Commission notes that while the telecoms sector saw zero growth in 2009, this soundly exceeded the overall performance of the economy, which declined by 4.2%. The consistent enforcement of existing rules and investment in innovative, fast growing services, such as mobile data services, are key to the sector's future development.
The Commission calls on the telecommunications industry and EU governments to join forces, to make it possible for all citizens and companies to have high speed Internet access to interactive communication services.