Mobile broadband growth outpaces fixed broadband in first quarter

As at the end of March, there were around 2.69 million users with mobile broadband Internet access in Portugal and around 1.73 million customers with fixed internet access, of which approximately 1.7 million were broadband.

Mobile broadband saw a high rate of growth during the period being reported. The number of users increased by 313 thousand over the quarter, representing a rise of almost 13% compared to the previous quarter, and a rise of 57 over the first quarter of 2008.

Along with the high rate of growth seen in the number of mobile broadband accesses, their use has also grown. The number of mobile broadband users who were active during the period being reported grew by around 14.7% over the quarter, rising to 1.33 million users, a figure that is 67.9% higher than the value recorded in the first quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of fixed internet access service customers (around 1.7 million) grew by around 3.6% over the previous quarter and by 7.6% year-on-year.

The number of dial-up access customers continued to decline, as a result of the migration of users to broadband. In this quarter the number of dial-up customers stood at 38 thousand, around 3 thousand less than in the previous quarter.

The majority of fixed Internet access service customers use broadband: the customers of these services represent around 98% of all customers. The number of customers of broadband services reached 1.7 million, 63 thousand more than in the previous quarter. The number of fixed broadband customers rose, therefore, by 3.9% in comparison to the previous quarter, and by 9.3% year-on-year.

This growth can be explained in the most part by the commercial activities of Grupo PT, Grupo ZON and Vodafone.

ADSL remains the principal broadband Internet access technology, now representing 58.4% of the total, 3.6 percentage points below the peak of December. Cable modem is used by 40% of fixed broadband customers.

The “others” category, which includes, for example, offers based on leased lines, on FWA and on fibre optic, and which represents just 1.6% of the total number of customers, has seen sharp growth, of more than 7%.

As far as market share of fixed broadband access is concerned, Grupo PT’s share of customers stood at 42.5%, 0.9% up on the previous quarter.

Grupo ZON’s share of customers increased by 0.3 percentage points to 31.6%.

It should also be reported that Vodafone increased its share of customers (+0.4 pp) while Cabovisão and Sonaecom saw their shares shrink.

According to available data, it can be seen that, during the quarter being reported, around 64% of new fixed broadband customers signed up to services operated by Grupo PT.

Besides Grupo PT, the operators which made the greatest contribution to the increase in the number of customers, in net terms, were Grupo ZON (39.8%) and Vodafone (14.9%).

Broadband Internet access traffic grew by around 29% in the quarter. This can be explained above all by the trends seen in fixed broadband traffic (+30%), which represented around 95% of the total. The growth rate of fixed traffic is almost 8 times the growth seen in the number of customers.

The trend seen in fixed traffic can be put down, in the most part, to the activity of Grupo ZON/TV Cabo, which accounts for two thirds of the growth seen. According to available information, it is the launch of fibre optic based offers of Internet access, in addition to the increase in the number of customers, which explains the significant increase in routed traffic.

In terms of traffic, the highest share belongs to Grupo ZON/TV Cabo.

The Internet access traffic of mobile accesses (in MB) grew by 7.8% in the quarter, compared to the previous quarter. The number of active customers of this form of access grew by almost 15%.

At the end of March, the penetration rate of broadband Internet access stood at 16 per 100 inhabitants for fixed access and at 25.4 per 100 inhabitants for mobile access.

In the case of fixed access, this figure increased 0.6 percentage points over the previous quarter being around 1.4% higher than the figure recorded for the first quarter of 2008. The penetration rate for mobile broadband grew by 3 percentage points over the quarter.

Graph - Information on the penetration of mobile broadband using PCMCIA cards of USB modem in EU27 - 4Q08

Graph - Penetration of broadband in EU27 - 4Q08