Penetration of mobile services with actual use rose to 127.4 per 100 inhabitants
At the end of the first quarter of 2022 (1Q2022), mobile penetration reached 181.6 per 100 inhabitants. If only mobile accesses actually used1 (excluding M2M2) are considered, the penetration rate in Portugal would be 127.4. In addition, if accesses exclusively allocated to data services and Internet access (cards associated with PC/tablet/pen/router) are also excluded, mobile service penetration would be 121 per 100 inhabitants.
The penetration of mobile accesses sold together with fixed services (i.e. in convergent bundles) was 50.9 per 100 inhabitants3.
Number of users increased by 7.7% in the last 12 months, the highest growth recorded since collection of this indicator began
The number of mobile accesses enabled to use the service totalled 18.8 million. Of these, 13.2 million (70.1% of the total) were actually used. Excluding the number of accesses assigned to PC/tablet/pen/router, the number of mobile accesses reached 12.5 million.
The number of subscribers who actually used the service increased by 946 thousand (+7.7%), compared to the same quarter of the previous year. This is the highest growth recorded since this indicator was first collected (in 2010). This evolution is explained by the greater take-up of post-paid and hybrid plans (+8.0% in the last 12 months), which represent 62.9% of total accesses actually used. Pre-paid plans (+7.3% in the last 12 months), which, in 2021, reversed the downward trend that had been occurring since 2012, had the largest year-on-year increase in this quarter since this indicator began to be collected (in 2010).
The evolution that occurred is likely to be associated with the gradual lifting of movement restrictions that began in the second half of March 2021 and the Digital School Programme. In the case of pre-paid plans, the growth was influenced by the increase in the number of occasional users (such as tourists).
Average traffic per access fell by 6.4%
Mobile voice traffic in minutes decreased by 0.8% compared to the first quarter of 2021 (1Q2021), which was the highest value recorded so far. The number of conversation minutes per mobile voice access in 1Q2022 averaged 239 per month, 16 minutes less (-6.4%) than in the same period last year.
In contrast to the period between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, during which the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt (average traffic growth per access of 11.4% per quarter above the historical trend), in 1Q2022 the registered value came close to the previously estimated trend.
The average duration of calls was 3 minutes 14 seconds per call, 29 seconds less (-13%) than in the same period of the previous year.
MBB penetration reached 89.3 per 100 inhabitants
The number of effective mobile Internet access service users stood at 9.2 million, up 13.1% year-on-year. This corresponds to a penetration rate of around 89.3 per 100 inhabitants (+10 p.p. than in 1Q2021), the highest increase since the second quarter of 2017.
The number of PC/tablet/pen/router users increased by 23.2%
The increase in the number of users was influenced by the end of the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and results from increases in both the number of mobile phone Internet users (+12.4%) and PC/tablet/pen/router Internet access service users (+23.2%). In the case of the latter accesses, this is the highest year-on-year growth recorded since 2010, the period when the e-initiatives programme was underway. This growth may be associated with Programa Escola Digital (the Digital School Programme), launched in September 2020, which includes the distribution to students of an Internet hotspot and a SIM card for connection to the mobile network and the gradual lifting of movement restrictions.
Mobile Internet traffic increased by 39.8% and average monthly traffic reached 6.2 GB/month
Mobile broadband internet (MBB) access traffic increased by 39.8% in comparison with 1Q2021. This growth is explained by the increase in the number of users and, above all, by the increased intensity of use of the service.
The average monthly traffic per active mobile Internet user increased 25.0% year-on-year. Each mobile broadband user consumed, on average, 6.2 GB per month. The average monthly traffic generated by PC/tablet/pen/router reached 26.3 GB (-0.5%).
The possible impact of COVID-19 and the cyber-attack on one operator contributed to this quarter’s evolution.
The number of M2M accesses increased by 9.7%
At the end of 1Q2022 there were around 1.4 million active mobile accesses allocated to Machine-to-Machine (M2M), an increase of 9.7% year-on-year. This is the highest year-on-year growth recorded since the 2nd quarter of 2019.
International roaming traffic recorded significant increases
Roaming traffic recorded increases in all types of traffic compared to the same period of the previous year, as had already been the case in the previous quarter. Internet traffic in particular grew at very high rates (+162.1% for roaming in traffic and +81.4% for roaming out traffic).
Roaming in Internet access was twice as high as roaming out
In this quarter, the degree of coverage of traffic in roaming in minutes by roaming out was 78.5%. In the case of Internet access, roaming in traffic was 2.3 times higher than roaming out traffic.
MEO was the provider with the highest share of active mobile accesses with actual use (40.0%), followed by Vodafone (29.0%), NOS (27.6%), NOWO (1.9%) and Lycamobile (1.5%). Compared to the same period of last year, the mobile access market shares of NOS, Lycamobile and NOWO increased by 1.2 p.p., 0.4 p.p. and 0.1 p.p., respectively, while MEO’s and Vodafone’s shares decreased by 0.6 p.p. and 1.1 p.p., respectively.
The level of concentration, measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, remained high, despite continuing the downward trend that began in 2014.
In the case of mobile broadband internet subscriber shares, MEO’s share was 36.6%, followed by NOS with 30.6%, Vodafone with 29.2%, NOWO with 2.3% and Lycamobile with 1.2%. In 1Q2022, Lycamobile, NOS and NOWO increased their market shares by 0.8 p.p., 0.7 p.p. and 0.1 p.p., respectively. MEO’s and Vodafone’s subscriber shares decreased by 1.1 p.p. 0.6 p.p., respectively.
NOS holds the highest share of mobile broadband Internet traffic (41.2%), followed by Vodafone and MEO (29.6% and 28.4%, respectively). Compared to the same period of the previous year, NOS’ share fell 4.7 p.p. while Vodafone and MEO’s shares increased 3.4 p.p. and 0.9 p.p., respectively.
5G traffic accounts for 1.7% of total mobile data traffic
Following the 5G auction, ANACOM issued at the end of 2021 the certificates establishing rights of use for frequency (RUF) to six operators: Dense Air, Dixarobil (Digi Portugal), MEO, NOS, NOWO and Vodafone.
Following the award of the above certificates, these providers advertised a set of commercial offers associated to 5G. Typically, the 5G option is associated with an additional price of five euros/month, except in the case of offers with higher traffic limits, whose users may access 5G free of charge. However, until 15 September 2022, providers have allowed free access to 5G for all customers.
According to available information, it is estimated that, at the end of March 2022, traffic carried on 5G networks represented around 1.7% of total mobile data traffic. On the other hand, it is estimated that, on the same date, between 3% and 6% of mobile service users and between 3% and 9% of mobile internet users had 5G equipment and subscribed to an offer that allows access to these services.
1 Active mobile accesses, including e.g. subscription plans, minute plans, monthly plans convertible into traffic, etc., which enable the use of one of the contracted services and which have actually used one of the contracted services in the time period under report.
2 Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications use mobile networks and the Internet to operate, monitor and interconnect machines and equipment (i.e. telealarm, remote security, telemetry, etc.). They are associated with the so-called Internet of Things.
3 This is a share of the 181.6 per 100 inhabitants referred to in the previous paragraph.