Albania mobile operators suffer drastic cut in active subscribers

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 10, 2018 11:23

Albania mobile operators suffer drastic cut in active subscribers

Story Highlights

  • The decline by a fifth in the number of active subscribers, some 735,000, comes at a time when the smallest and sole Albanian-owned operator ceased its operations at the end of 2017 and amid higher use of smartphone apps replacing traditional phone calls and text messages, making holding two mobile numbers unnecessary and too costly for subscribers

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TIRANA, Sept. 7 – The number of active mobile phone subscribers suffered a sharp double-digit drop during the first half of this year, registering the first such slump since mobile services were launched in the country in the early 2000s.

A quarterly report by Albania’s electronic communications watchdog, AKEP, shows the number of active mobile phone subscribers, defined as those who made or received at least one call or text message in the last three months, fell to 2.7 million in the second quarter of 2017, down 5.8 percent compared to the year’s first quarter and a sharp 21.2 percent compared to mid-2017 when Albania had 3.47 million active subscribers.

The decline by a fifth in the number of active subscribers, some 735,000, comes at a time when the smallest and sole Albanian-owned operator ceased its operations at the end of 2017. The slump also comes amid higher use of smartphone apps replacing traditional phone calls and text messages, making holding two mobile numbers unnecessary and too costly for subscribers at a time when mobile fees have slightly increased following a sharp decline in mobile operators’ income.

Albanian-owned Plus had some 205,800 active subscribers at the end of 2017 when it exited the market after seven years of operation, leaving the market with three foreign-owned operators after selling its shares to the country’s two leading mobile companies.

All three remaining operators, UK-based giant Vodafone Albania and Telekom Albania, part of Deutsche Telekom, who each purchased a 50 percent share in Plus’s operations, and Turkish-owned Albtelecom, reported significant cuts in the number of active mobile phone subscribers in the first half of this year, hinting Albanians are massively giving up their second phone numbers at a time when the number of subscribers with access to 3G and 4G services increased to about two-thirds compared to about half of total subscribers during the first half of 2017 and only about 10 percent in 2011 when 3G services were first offered.

The three remaining mobile operators report a total of about 4.87 million subscribers based on the number of SIM cards, meaning that at least three quarters of the country’s resident population uses more than one phone number.

Albania’s electronic communications watchdog has recently voiced concern that the downward trend in income generated by mobile and other electronic communications operators in Albania will negatively affect the level of investment and the quality of service in the country.

The concern comes after Albania’s mobile phone operators suffered a double-digit income decline in 2017 in an ongoing downward trend since almost a decade triggered by tougher competition and smartphone apps replacing traditional phone calls and text messages.

An annual report by the country’s electronic communications authority, AKEP, shows the country’s four mobile operators saw their revenue drop by an annual 12 percent to 29.7 billion lek (€233 mln) in 2017, the lowest level since 2003 when only two mobile operators were offering their services in Albania.

In 2017, an active Albanian mobile phone subscriber paid an average of 3.12 lek (€0.024)/minute (VAT included) and spend an average of 509 lek (€4) a month on mobile services, in slightly higher rates compared to 2016, but at one of cheapest rates in the Western Balkans.

Since mid-2018, mobile operators have switch back to 30-day pre-paid standard bundles after cutting the packages to 28 days for the past couple of years. The shift came following an AKEP decision identifying an abusive hike in consumer costs in practices not applied in regional countries.

The overwhelming 90 percent of Albania’s active subscribers are pre-paid customers.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 10, 2018 11:23