Average duration of mobile calls reaches historic peak and traffic also soars in the 1st quarter

The exceptional measures associated to COVID-19 gave rise to significant growth of monthly traffic accessed by mobile service and of the average duration of these calls, which reached a historic peak (184 seconds) at the end of the 1st quarter of 2020. Mobile voice traffic increased by 11.9% in comparison to the same period of the previous year, reaching 7.9 billion minutes, influenced by the exceptional measures associated to COVID-19, namely the declaration of a state of emergency on 18 March. For example, during that week (16 to 22 March), mobile voice traffic in minutes grew by 39% in relation to the week of 2 to 8 March.

The changes in consumption patterns also had a strong impact on the number of minutes of conversation accessed by mobile voice, which stood at an average of 223 per month, 23.1 minutes more than in the same period of 2019. The average duration of the calls was 184 seconds, twenty seconds more than in the same period of the previous year.

By type of call, the strong growth observed in voice traffic in minutes was the result of the increased off-net traffic (+16.9%) and on-net traffic (+8.4%). Traffic destined to international networks, which had risen for 14 quarters consecutively, fell by 0.1%.

Mobile broadband internet access traffic increased by 41.3% year-on-year, influenced by the effects of the state of emergency. It is estimated that, in the first four weeks of the state of emergency, mobile data traffic grew by around 8.5%, on average terms.

Monthly traffic per active mobile internet user increased by 31.4% in relation to 1Q19. Each mobile broadband user consumed on average 4.3 GB per month. It should be recalled that the larger providers offered their customers 10 GB of mobile data at the beginning of the period in which the state of emergency was enforced.

The number of mobile accesses authorized to use the service amounted to 17.3 million of which 12.2 million (70.9% of the total) were effectively used (+0.1%). Excluding the number de accesses made by PC/tablet/pen/router, there were 11.7 million mobile accesses.

This evolution is explained by the increased penetration of the convergence packages included in the mobile telephone service, as well as by the replacement of prepaid plans by post-paid plans, implying that the post-paid and hybrid plans continue to grow by 5.4%; while prepaid plans have been falling since 2013, and now account for 39.6% of the total, three percentage points less than in the same period of the previous year.

In terms of shares, MEO was the provider with the highest share of active mobile accesses with actual use (41.9%), followed by Vodafone (30.1%) and NOS (25.8%). Compared to the same period last year, the NOS share increased by 0.9 percentage points, while the share of MEO and Vodafone fell by one point and 0.1 points, respectively.

In the 1st quarter, there were around 8 million actual users of the internet access mobile service, 5.4% more than in the same period of the previous year, corresponding to a penetration of around 78.3 per 100 inhabitants. This growth is associated to an increase of 5.8% of mobile phone internet users, the massification of smartphones and the development of mobile applications.

Regarding 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%. NOS became the second largest mobile internet provider, with its share having risen by 2.6 points, while the shares of Vodafone and MEO declined by 1.6 p.p. and 1.5 p.p., respectively.

In the international sphere, roaming in traffic recorded increases in all types of traffic in relation to the same period of the previous year, especially internet traffic, which grew by 41.3%. The records indicate that 5.3% more voice calls were made; voice traffic in minutes increased by 19.5% and the average duration of the calls increased by 13.5%. Concerning roaming out, internet traffic grew by 39.7% with 6.2% less voice calls having been made, which was the first time that a year-on-year reduction was recorded. Although less calls were made, those that were made were longer (on average 10% longer), which contributed to an increase of 3.2% of the voice traffic in minutes. SMS in roaming out fell by 8.6%.

The more moderate evolution of the roaming indicators compared to previous periods would have been affected by the restrictions imposed on international travel derived from the pandemic situation.

Consult the statistical report: