Mobile services - 1st quarter 2020

This information is copyrighted to ANACOM

This information is copyrighted to ANACOM

Executive summary

Penetration of mobile services with actual use reached 119.2 per 100 inhabitants

At the end of the first quarter of 2020, the penetration of the mobile service reached 168 per 100 inhabitants. If only mobile accesses with actual use1 are considered (excluding M2M2), the penetration rate in Portugal would be 119.2. On the other hand, if we were to exclude accesses exclusively made by data services and internet access (cards associated with a PC/tablet/pen/router), the penetration of mobile services would be 114.3 per 100 inhabitants.

The penetration of mobile accesses offered with bundled services provided at a fixed location was 45 per 100 inhabitants.

Number of subscribers grew by 0.1% in the last 12 months

The number of mobile accesses authorised to use the service3 amounted to 17.3 million.

Of these, 12.2 million (70.9% of the total) were actually used. Since 2012, there has been no significant growth in the number of these subscribers.

Excluding the number of accesses made by PC/tablet/pen/router, the number of mobile accesses rose to 11.7 million.

The number of subscribers that actually used the service increased by 0.1% (15 thousand subscribers) compared to the same quarter of the previous year. This growth is explained by the evolution of post-paid and hybrid plans4 (+5.4% on the previous year), which continued to show a growth trend, while pre-paid fell, now representing 39.6% of the total (-3 percentage points that the same period of the previous year).

Due to COVID-19 a significant increase in monthly traffic per access and average call duration was recorded, reaching the highest ever value

Mobile voice traffic increased by 11.9%, compared to 1Q2019, in terms of minutes. The evolution recorded in voice traffic minutes was influenced by COVID-19. For example, in the week in which the state of emergency was declared (16 to 22 March), mobile voice traffic in minutes increased by 39% compared to the week prior to the declaration of the pandemic (2 to 8 March).

The changes in consumption patterns due to the impact of COVID-19 resulted in the exceptional growth of average traffic per mobile access and the average duration of calls. The number of conversation minutes per mobile voice access in 1Q2020 was on average 223 per month, 23.1 minutes (+11.6%) more than in the same period of the previous year. The average duration of calls was 184 seconds per call, twenty seconds (+12.4%) more than in the same period of the previous year and the highest figure ever recorded.

By type of call, the high growth recorded in voice traffic in minutes resulted mainly from the increase in off-net (+16.9%) and on-net (+8.4%) traffic. Traffic destined for international networks, which had been growing for 14 consecutive quarters, fell by 0.1% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Mobile internet penetration was 78.3 per 100 inhabitants

The number of actual users of the internet access mobile service stood at 8 million (+5.4% than in the same period of the previous year), continuing the slowing trend that began in 2017. This figure corresponds to a penetration of around 78.3 per 100 inhabitants (+4 percentage points higher than in 1Q2019). This growth is associated to the increase in mobile phone internet users (+5.8% compared to 1Q2019).

The impact of COVID-19 also contributed to the growth in mobile internet traffic, which increased by 41.3%, and average monthly traffic, which reached 4.3 GB/month

Mobile broadband internet access traffic increased by 41.3% compared to the first quarter of 2019, influenced by the effects of COVID-19. We estimate that the in the first four weeks of the state of emergency, mobile data traffic grew on average by 8.5%.

Monthly traffic per active mobile internet user increased by 31.4% compared to the same period of the previous year. Each MBB user consumed on average 4.3 GB per month. We recall that the largest providers offered their customers 10 GB of mobile data at the beginning of the period when the state of emergency took effect.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) accesses increased by 5.9%

At the end of 1Q2020 there were around 1.2 million active mobile accesses related to M2M, an increase of 5.9% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Significant growth of internet access traffic in international roaming

With the exception of the number of text messages and roaming out calls, roaming traffic recorded significant increases in all types of traffic in relation to the previous year, especially internet traffic (+41.3% in the case of roaming in5 and 39.7% in the case of roaming out6).

The number of roaming out calls recorded a fall compared to the same quarter of the previous year (-6.2%), for the first time since this indicator was measured. The fall in the number of roaming out calls, and the potentially more moderate evolution of the roaming indicators in comparison to previous periods will have been affected by the restrictions imposed on international travel due to the pandemic.

The level of roaming in by roaming out traffic coverage in minutes was 77.9%. Over the past 5 years the roaming balance (roaming in – roaming out) had a surplus only in 2017. In contrast, in the case of internet access, roaming in traffic is substantially higher than roaming out traffic. In 1Q2020, roaming in traffic volume was 2.3 times higher than roaming out traffic.

Shares per provider

MEO was the provider with the highest share (41.5%) of active mobile accesses with actual use, followed by Vodafone (30.1%) and NOS (25.8%). Compared to the same period of the previous year, the share of mobile accesses of NOS increased by 0.9 p.p., while those of MEO and Vodafone fell by 1 p.p. and 0.1 p.p. respectively. The concentration level, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, although high, decreased slightly compared to the same period in the previous year, as has happened since 2012.

In the case of the shares of subscribers to mobile broadband internet access, MEO's share was 37.4%, followed by NOS with 31.2% and Vodafone with 29.2%. In 1Q2020, NOS became the second largest mobile Internet provider; its share increased by 2.6 p.p. Vodafone and MEO's shares fell by 1.6 p.p. and 1.5 p.p. respectively.

NOS had the highest share of broadband Internet traffic (45.5%), followed by MEO and Vodafone (27.4% and 26.6% respectively). Compared to the same period of the previous year, the share of NOS increased by 5 p.p. The shares of Vodafone and MEO fell by 4.4 p.p. and 0.7 p.p. respectively.

1 Active mobile accesses, including for example subscription plans, minutes plans, monthly plans convertible into traffic, etc., which are authorised to use one of the contracted services and which actually use one of the contracted services in the reporting period.
2 M2M applications use the mobile networks and internet to operate, monitor and interconnect machines and equipment (i.e., tele-alarm, tele-security, telemetry, etc.). These are associated to the so-called internet of things.
3 Active mobile accesses are enabled to use the services, but they might not have been used.
4 Hybrid plans are tariff plans which simultaneously show features of both pre-paid and post-paid plans. These plans include a traffic ceiling in a post-paid scheme. However, the extra-ceiling traffic is charged at a pre-paid tariff.
5 Roaming in traffic is the traffic flow (generated and terminating) in national networks by foreign network subscribers.
6 Roaming out traffic is traffic generated and terminated by subscribers of national operators as users of networks of other operators abroad.