Portugal is the EU country with the largest number of subscribers using alternative operators for direct access

The European Commission today published the 14th Implementation Report, which presents an overview of the European single market for electronic communications as in December 2008, including the situation in each Member State, based on facts and figures provided by national regulators and market participants.

According to the report, Portugal is once again the Member State which has the highest number of subscribers using an alternative operator for direct access, and also has the lowest unbundled accesses prices in the entire European Union. The Commission also notes that the wholesale mobile termination rates are below the EU average

The high level of mobile broadband access, reaching a penetration rate of 12.1 per 100 inhabitants in January 2009, puts Portugal among the countries with the highest penetration rates, according to the report.

The European Commission goes on to highlight other features including the positive effect of the spin-off enacted by Portugal Telecom, particularly with respect to the broadband market, and that coverage of cable in rural areas is the highest in the EU (50%). The Commission also notes evidence of increased levels of competition in the fixed and broadband markets, in terms of investment and the emergence of new offers. In the fixed voice market, the report marks a gradual reduction in the market share of the incumbent operator in revenue terms, even while this remains above the EU average.

The report also emphasizes the significant growth in the penetration of the mobile service in Portugal (14.63%) in the last year, recording a penetration rate of 136.9 per 100 inhabitants in October 2008, well above the European average (118.9 per 100 inhabitants). The prices of voice mobile services are around the European average, while the proportion of customers using pre-paid services (72%) is one of the highest in the EU.

On the other hand, the European Commission makes some comments in support of more pro-activity from the regulator - including the completion of market analysis -, and notes that the growth in fixed broadband remains below the European average, but believes that positive steps have been taken with respect to Next Generation Access Networks (public consultation held in 2008 and now concluded, and the preparation of legislation which will combat barriers to the vertical and horizontal development of these networks), as well as notification of markets 4 and 5. The report also highlights the decisions on the introduction of technological neutrality in the allocation of spectrum and on the amendment of the rules governing number portability, finally noting that ANACOM is paying increased attention to consumer issues.

Regarding the situation of the sector across the entirety of the European Union, the Commission highlighted the fact that Europe is the world leader in mobile services, with a penetration of 119% (an increase of 7 percentage points compared to 2007), well ahead of the United States (87%) and Japan (84%). The Commission also considers that despite the economic crisis, the telecommunications sector in the EU (representing about 3% of GDP) continued to grow in 2008, with estimated revenues of over 300 billion euros (an increase of 1.3% over 2007), surpassing the performance levels of the rest of the economy (which grew by only 1%). Consumers gain the most from the sector's competitiveness: they pay less and receive better quality services. The average amount of a mobile telephone bill fell from 21.48 euros to 19.49 euros in 2008 while 75% of European consumers now have an Internet connections of at least 2 megabits per second.