Mobile Services - 3rd quarter 2022

Executive Summary

Penetration of mobile services with actual use rose to 129.3 per 100 inhabitants

By the end of the 3rd quarter of 2022 (3Q2022), mobile penetration reached 187.9 per 100 inhabitants. Taking into account only mobile accesses that were actually used1 (excluding M2M2), the penetration rate in Portugal would be 129.3. In addition, if accesses exclusively allocated to data services and Internet access (cards associated with PC/tablet/pen/router) are also excluded, mobile penetration would be 122.5 per 100 inhabitants.

The penetration of mobile accesses provided together with fixed services (i.e. in convergent packages) was 53.4 per 100 inhabitants3.

Number of users increased by 5.2% in the last 12 months

The number of mobile accesses enabled to use the service reached 19.5 million. 13.4 million among these (68.8% of the total) were actually used. If PC/tablet/pen/router accesses are excluded, the number of mobile accesses rises to 12.7 million.

The number of subscribers actually using the service increased by 663 thousand (+5.2%) compared to the same quarter last year. The trend is explained by the increased take-up of post-paid and hybrid plans (+7.8% in the last 12 months), which accounted for 64.1% of total accesses actually used. Prepaid plans (+0.9% in the last 12 months), which reversed in 2021 the downward trend that had been occurring since 2012, increased for the 5th consecutive quarter, year-on-year, moving closer to pre-pandemic values.

The evolution that occurred is likely to be associated with the Digital School Programme, and also reflects the recovery of economic activity after the pandemic. 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 7.1%

Mobile voice traffic in minutes decreased by 2.2% when compared to the 3rd quarter of 2021 (3Q2021). The number of conversation minutes per mobile voice access in 3Q2022 averaged 222 per month, 17 minutes less (-7.1%) than in the same period last year.

In 3Q2022 there was no significant effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mobile voice traffic per access. The value recorded was lower than the estimated historical trend and seasonal effect, bearing the pre-COVID-19 trend in mind.

The average call duration was 2 minutes 55 seconds per call, 6 seconds less (-3.2%) than in the same period last year.

MBB penetration reached 94.2 per 100 inhabitants

The number of effective mobile Internet access service users stood at 9.8 million, an increase by 9.3% over the same period last year. This corresponds to a penetration rate of approximately 94.2 per 100 inhabitants (+8.0 p.p. than in 3Q2021).

The number of PC/tablet/pen/router users increased by 14.4%

The increase in the number of mobile Internet access users was influenced by the end of restrictions associated to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is the result of increases both in the number of Internet users on mobile phones (+8.9%) and of users of the Internet access service via PC/tablet/pen/router (+14.4%). The latter accesses have risen above 10% year-on-year for five consecutive quarters. Such high increases had not been observed since 2010, when the e-initiatives programme was underway. The growth that has been recorded since the beginning of 2021 may be associated with the gradual lifting of movement restrictions and 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.

Mobile Internet traffic increased by 46.1% and the average monthly traffic reached 8.7 GB/month

Mobile broadband (MBB)  internet access traffic increased by 46.1% compared to 3Q2021. This is the highest growth recorded since collection of this indicator began (in 2010). This evolution is explained by the increase in the number of users and, above all, by the higher intensity of use of the service, also as a result of the promotional offers launched by the largest providers in 3Q2022, which included offers of unlimited traffic for certain periods.

The average monthly traffic per active mobile Internet user increased 32.1% year-on-year. Each mobile broadband user consumed an average of 8.7 GB per month. The average monthly traffic generated by PC/tablet/pen/router reached 34.3 GB (+8.9%), while the average mobile Internet traffic grew by 40.3% to reach 6.7 GB.

The number of M2M accesses increased by 5.3%

By the end of 3Q2022 there were approximately 1.4 million active mobile accesses allocated to Machine-to-Machine (M2M), an increase by 5.3% year-on-year. These accesses represented 7.0% of total active accesses.

International roaming traffic recorded significant increases

Roaming traffic recorded increases in all types of traffic compared to the same period last year. In particular Internet traffic grew at very high rates (+79.2% for roaming in and +76.2% for roaming out).

Roaming in Internet access was 5.3 times higher than roaming out

In this quarter, the degree of coverage of traffic in roaming in minutes by roaming out was 164.1%. In the case of Internet access, roaming in traffic was 5.3 times higher than roaming out traffic.

Provider shares

MEO was the provider with the highest share of active mobile accesses that were actually used (39.6%), followed by Vodafone (29.0%), NOS (28.1%), NOWO (1.9%) and Lycamobile (1.4%). Compared to the same period last year, NOS’, Lycamobile’s and NOWO’s mobile accesses increased by 1.2 p.p., 0.2 p.p. and 0.1 p.p., respectively, while Vodafone’s and MEO’s shares decreased by 0.8 p.p. and 0.7 p.p., respectively.

The level of concentration, measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, remained high, although it maintained the downward trend that began in 2014.

In the case of mobile broadband Internet subscriber shares, MEO’s share was 36.4%, followed by NOS with 31.0%, Vodafone with 29.0%, NOWO with 2.3% and Lycamobile with 1.3%. In 3Q2022, NOS, Lycamobile and NOWO increased their market shares by 0.7pp, 0.4pp and 0.1pp, respectively. MEO’s and Vodafone’s subscriber shares decreased by 0.9 p.p. and 0.3 p.p., respectively.

Vodafone has the highest share of mobile broadband internet traffic (36.3%), overtaking NOS (34.9%) this quarter, followed by MEO (28.1%). Compared to the same period last year, NOS’ share fell 6.1 p.p. while Vodafone’s and MEO’s shares increased 5.6 p.p. and 0.4 p.p., respectively.

5G traffic represented 6.1% of total mobile data traffic

At the end of 2021, following the 5G auction, ANACOM issued 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, three of the six providers launched a set of commercial offers associated to 5G. Typically, the 5G option is associated with an additional price of EUR 5/month, except in the case of offers with higher traffic caps, whose users may access 5G without additional payments. However, until 15 January 2023, providers have offered to provide free access to  5G to all customers.

The number of mobile Internet users over 5G totalled 1.6 million, 24.3% higher than in the previous quarter, resulting in a penetration rate of 15.1 per 100 inhabitants. According to available information, it is estimated that in 3Q2022 traffic carried on 5G networks represented about 6.1% of total mobile data traffic, reaching 3.5 GB per user per month. In addition, it is estimated that, by the end of 3Q2022, 11.6% of mobile service users and 16.0% of mobile Internet users had 5G equipment and subscribed to an offer that enables access to these services.

1 Active mobile accesses, including e.g. subscription plans, minute plans, monthly plans convertible into traffic, etc., which are entitled to use of one of the contracted services and which have actually used one of the contracted services in the reporting period.
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 part of the 187.9 per 100 inhabitants referred to in the previous paragraph.