Mobile services - 1st half 2020

Executive summary

Penetration of mobile services with actual use reached 117 per 100 inhabitants

At the end of the first half of 2020, the penetration of the mobile service reached 164 per 100 inhabitants. If only mobile accesses with actual use were considered1 (excluding M2M2), the penetration rate in Portugal would be 117. 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 112 per 100 inhabitants.

The penetration of mobile accesses offered with bundled services provided at a fixed location was 45.4 per 100 inhabitants (convergence bundles).

Number of subscribers decreased by 1.9% in the last 12 months

The number of mobile accesses authorised to use the service3 amounted to 16.9 million. Of these, 12 million (71.4% of the total) were actually used. Excluding the number of accesses made by PC/tablet/pen/router, the number of mobile accesses rose to 11.5 million.

The number of subscribers that actually used the service decreased by 236 thousand subscribers (-1.9%) compared to the same half of the previous year. This change was due to trends in pre-paid plans (-10.6% in the last 12 months), which have been falling since 2013, and which now account for 38.4% of total accesses actually used. Post-paid and hybrid plans4 (+4.4% in the last 12 months) continued the growth trend which began in 2012. This trend is tied to the ongoing increased penetration of bundled services which include mobile telephone service.

All-time high in voice traffic per access and average duration of calls due to the impact of COVID-19

Mobile voice traffic increased by 17%, compared to 1H2019, regarding 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, which reached all-time highs. The number of conversation minutes per mobile voice access in 1H2020 was on average 238 per month, 36 minutes (+17.9%) more than in the same period of the previous year. The average duration of calls was 203 seconds per call, 41 seconds (+25.4%) 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 (+24.9%) and on-net (+12.5%) traffic. Major increases were also seen in mobile-fixed traffic (+20.0%) and calls to short and non-geographic numbers (+20.3%). Traffic destined for international networks fell by 14.6% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Mobile Internet penetration was 76.4 per 100 inhabitants

The number of actual users of the Internet access mobile service stood at 7.9 million (+0.9% 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 76.4 per 100 inhabitants (+0.5 p.p. higher than in 1H2019). This growth is associated with the increase in mobile phone Internet users (+1% compared to 1H2019).

Mobile Internet traffic increased 33.9% and average monthly traffic reached 4.5 GB/month

Mobile broadband (MBB) Internet access traffic increased by 33.9% compared to 1H2019, influenced by the effects of COVID-19.

Average monthly traffic per active mobile Internet user increased by 28.9% compared to the same period of the previous year. Each mobile broadband user consumed on average 4.5 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. The average monthly traffic generated by PC/pen/tablet/router reached 20.3 GB (+50.2%).

Machine-to-machine (M2M) accesses increased by 3.5%

At the end of 1H2020, there were around 1.2 million active mobile accesses related to M2M, an increase of 3.5% compared to the same period of the previous year.

Significant decline in international roaming traffic due to international travel restrictions

Roaming traffic saw declines in all types of traffic compared to the same period of the previous year, particularly Internet traffic (-27.5% in the case of roaming in and -7.2% in the case of roaming out), with negative year-on-year quarterly growth for the first time since this indicator was measured.

The downturn in all types of roaming in and roaming out traffic was due to the decline in international travel because of the pandemic.

In this half-year, the roaming balance (i.e. roaming in traffic – roaming out traffic) showed a deficit in the case of traffic in minutes, in line with the trend from the last five years (with the exception of 2017). The level of roaming in by roaming out traffic coverage in minutes was 74.3%. In contrast, in the case of Internet access, roaming in traffic is substantially higher than roaming out traffic (in 1H2020, roaming in traffic volume was 2.3 times higher than roaming out traffic).

Shares per provider

MEO was the provider with the highest share (41.0%) of active mobile accesses with actual use, followed by Vodafone (30.1%) and NOS (26.2%). Compared to the same period of the previous year, the share of mobile accesses of NOS increased by 1.2 p.p., while those of MEO and Vodafone fell by 1.2 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 38.3%, followed by Vodafone with 29.9% and NOS with 29.6%. In 1H2020, the share of NOS increased by 1.0 p.p., while MEO's and Vodafone's shares of subscribers fell by 1.0 p.p. and 0.5 p.p., respectively.

NOS had the highest share of broadband Internet traffic (46.2%), followed by MEO and Vodafone (27.1% and 26.3%, respectively). Compared to the previous year, NOS’ share increased by 5.2 p.p., while Vodafone's and MEO's shares fell by 4.1 p.p. and 1.2 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.