The MCA is hereby updating its series of Data Report Sheet ('DRS') publications with a report covering the period Q1 2015 to Q4 2019. The purpose of this publication is to inform the general public on the main trends and developments in Malta concerning electronic communications and post. The report sheet lists a number of indicators for the aforementioned areas, with data presented on a quarterly basis.
The presentation highlighting main indicators can be accessed here.
The full DRS can be accessed here.
Data cut-off date: 15th April 2020. Data is preliminary and subject to change.
Data Report Sheet: Market Developments for electronic communications and post
Period under review: Fourth quarter of 2019
The MCA is hereby outlining the main trends observed for the Maltese telecoms and postal segments in the fourth quarter of 2019. Insights are based on data that the MCA collects on a quarterly basis from local service providers and which is presented in more detail in the ‘Data Report Sheet (DRS)’ publication covering the period Q1 2015 to Q4 2019.
The telecoms sector saw a general increase in subscriptions in the fourth quarter of 2019, in line with trends observed in the previous quarters of the year. Whilst domestic demand was key to growth, the strong migration inflows of foreign labour in 2019 contributed significantly in boosting take-up.
The subscriber base grew most rapidly for the fixed broadband segment, with the number of subscriptions growing by 5.6% in the 12-month period to the end of 2019. During the same period, the pay TV segment registered a 3.3% increase in subscriptions, whilst the mobile segment recorded an increase of 3%. A modest growth of 0.5% was recorded for the fixed telephony segment. Significantly, most of the new subscriptions for the fixed telephony, fixed broadband and pay TV segments were registered in a bundle package, which explains why the proportion of subscriptions in a bundle has continued to rise for these segments.
In the classification of services by most bundled, the fixed broadband segment leads at 91.8%, followed by 79.5% for fixed telephony and 76.4% for Pay-Tv. Just 10% of mobile telephony subscriptions were accounted for in a bundle package.
Counter to the general growth trend observed for telecoms, postal mail volumes were down year-on-year, although e-commerce-related postal activity did contribute to smoothen the volume dip.
More insights for the telecoms and postal segments are provided below.
A 5.6% increase in subscriptions characterised the fixed broadband segment in 2019, with the FTTH, cable and fixed wireless platforms contributing to this increase. Comparing figures at the end of the year to twelve months earlier, subscriptions to FTTH surged by 28.6% followed by a 13.5% rise in fixed wireless subscriptions and by a 6.8% increase in cable-based subscriptions. For the proper context, the percentages for FTTH and fixed wireless should ideally be considered in the context of the 42% reach of FTTH to homes and dwellings in Malta and the launch of fixed wireless by GO in 2019. An additional consideration is the observed migration from DSL to in FTTH, with the number of DSL subscriptions falling by 4.7% year-on-year.
Breaking the take-up data by speed level sheds light on the ongoing shift to ultra-fast speeds. Year-on-year, the proportion of fixed broadband subscriptions supporting a download speed of 100Mbps or more was up by 12 percentage points, from 33.3% at the end of 2018 to 45.5% at the end of 2019.
ARPU gains continued for the fixed broadband segment, driven by upselling for low-end subscribers to high-speed broadband that is generally available in dual-play and triple-play plans alongside television and fixed telephony. Fixed broadband ARPU increased from €231.21 in 2018 to €240.90 last year.
Mobile telephony service providers together closed off the year with 18,543 more subscriptions than at the start of the year, corresponding to a 3% increase in subscriptions year-on-year.
Customers continued to migrate to post-paid plans while at the same time consuming more mobile data. The proportion of post-paid subscriptions to the total registered a two-percentage point increase year-on-year to reach 38% by the end of 2019, whilst the share of pre-paid subscriptions to the total was down by the same margin to 62%. It is understood that monthly allowances are a key factor enticing take-up of post-paid plans.
As for mobile telephony voice usage, volumes were up. Comparing traffic volumes in 2019 from a year previously, the number of outgoing voice calls was up by 30.3 million (or by 6.1%) whilst the number of voice call minutes was up by 80.9 million (or by almost 8%). The number of mobile messages (including SMS and MMS) continued to decline over the same period, down 42.9 million (or by 18.2%), while data usage continued to increase rapidly, more than doubling from 6,206 million Mb to 14,120 million Mb.
ARPU for the mobile telephony segment improved year-on-year, as operators succeed in upselling low-end subscribers to post-paid plans and as a result of the general increase in consumption of mobile data. Mobile telephony ARPU increased from €173.20 in 2018 to €177.52 last year.
Overall, the number of pay TV subscriptions was up by 3.3% year-on-year, equivalent to 5,378 new subscriptions in the 12-month period to the end of 2019.
Subscriptions on the digital cable platform were up by 5,702 (or by 6%) whilst the digital interactive (IPTV) platform saw a rise of 6,949 subscriptions (a 14.5% increase). For a proper context, the latter rise also comes on the back of migration from the DTTV platform, which is also owned by the same operator. Year-on-year, the number of DTTV subscriptions was down by 7,313 subscriptions (or by 33.2%).
Pay TV ARPU was marginally up by 1% year-on-year, from €176.55 in 2018 to €178.35 in 2019.
Outcomes for the fixed telephony segment are a mixed bag of falling traffic volumes whilst subscriptions are rising. This is consistent with long-term trends, considering that fixed telephony consistently features in dual and triple play offers whilst voice calling evidently goes increasingly mobile.
Comparing 2019 from a year previously, the number of fixed voice calls was down by almost 13 million (or by 13.2%) whilst the number of fixed voice call minutes fell by 54.7 million (or by 14.4%).
Meanwhile the number of subscriptions was up marginally by 0.5% year-on-year. Comparing developments on a more disaggregated level shows that the number of pre-paid subscriptions was down by 3,266 (or by 30.8%) to 7,338 by the end of 2019, whilst the number of post-paid subscriptions was up by 4,818 (or by 2%) to 245,858.
By definition dedicated connections are a high-quality, dedicated, point-to-point data transmission connections used by businesses operating in Malta, such as banks, gaming companies and government entities.
This is a niche segment representing fewer clients than is the case with other segments addressing mass market requirements. The year 2019 ended with 116 fewer connections in this niche segment than recorded twelve months earlier. However, this has to be seen in the context of the myriad solutions that may be offered by local service providers but which do not fall within the description of dedicated connections addressed in this publication.
The domestic postal landscape is in synch with global developments, as e-substitution eats away from traditional mail activity.
Postal mail volumes in Malta for 2019 were 2.6% lower than in 2018. The decline was spread across three of the four types of postal mail activity, with letter mail, bulk mail and parcel mail volumes down by 0.5%, 3.9% and 9.6% respectively year-on-year. Registered mail did however see a rise in activity with a 1.2% increase in volumes.
Taking into account mail volumes by destination, domestic and outbound cross border mail volumes were down by 5.5% and 15.4% respectively year-on-year, whilst inbound cross border mail volumes were up by 13.8%.
(i) Data cut-off date: 13th March 2020;
(ii) Data is preliminary and subject to change.