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Mobile data usage up 30% pts in 2017

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Mobile broadband penetration jumped by 30 percentage points inside one year, it was revealed yesterday, with four out of every five Bahamians using the product by year-end 2017.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA), unveiling its 2017 annual report, said the improvement from 2016's 50 per cent penetration rate was just one of the benefits flowing from the arrival of mobile competition late that year.

With Aliv's services available to 95 per cent of the Bahamas' populated areas by year-end 2017, the regulator said: "URCA considers that the introduction of competition in the cellular mobile market has proceeded in a robust manner, and has already begun to deliver benefits to the population in terms of better quality, prices and availability of services.

"More than 95 per cent of the Bahamas can access LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile services with high speed data connections, and penetration of mobile broadband grew from just over 50 per cent at the end of 2017 to over 80 per cent at the end of the year.

"While URCA has not conducted a full review of prices and quality of service, URCA is confident that the value delivered in the mobile sector was greatly enhanced by the introduction of competition in that market."

Data released by URCA yesterday showed a 64 per cent year-over-year jump in mobile data subscribers following Aliv's November 2016 launch, with numbers increasing from 200,696 to 329,244. Penetration rates increased from 53.09 users per 100 persons in 2016 to 89.09 last year.

Prepaid subscribers still represent the bulk of the Bahamian mobile communications market at 86 per cent, with URCA's voice subscriber numbers suggesting the market was beginning to calm following the intense competition for customers sparked by Aliv's introduction.

"There were 353,540 mobile voice subscribers throughout the Bahamas in 2017. This figure is a modest decrease from 2016, when voice subscribers totalled 360,200, likely due to market settling following the introduction of competition," URCA said. "The corresponding penetration rate in 2017 was 92.44 versus 95.31 per 100 subscribers in 2016.

"Mobile data-only service is another growing market, and relates to the total number of active subscribers to mobile Internet service via a laptop, tablet with 3G/4G connectivity or a USB dongle.

"Mobile data-only subscribers is a useful indicator to monitor, as the service can be a potential substitute for fixed broadband Internet. During the year 2017, there were 23,080 subscribers to mobile data only services."

Despite the surge in mobile data use and penetration, URCA said the communications sector's 2017 revenues were "stagnant" at $409 million - likely resulting from reduced mobile prices as a result of competition, as well as the continued decline in fixed-line phone penetration.

"The number of fixed-line subscribers fell from 121,178 in 2016 to 113,852 in 2017, with a corresponding decrease in the penetration rate from 32.05 in 2016 to 29.77 subscribers per 100 population in 2017," URCA said.

Pay television revenues rose slightly year-over-year, from $53.843 million in 2016 to $55.396 million last year, as BTC's Flow TV product continued to penetrate a market still dominated by Cable Bahamas.

Subscriber numbers also rose slightly - from 74,381 to 76,278 - as competition started to pick up between the duopoly that dominates the Bahamian market.

"Fixed broadband subscribers increased marginally by 0.27 per cent to a total of 86,868 subscribers from 2016, which was 86,628. Conversely, the penetration rate fells slightly to 22.71 subscribers per 100 population," URCA added.

As for the electricity sector, which it also now regulates, URCA said: "Total commercial generation capacity installed throughout the Bahamas is about 645 Mega Watts (MW), serving approximately 142,000 consumers split 80 per cent residential to 20 per cent commercial. The sector directly employs approximately 1,350 people.

"Total sector revenues during 2016 (URCA is not in possession of complete 2017 information) amounted to approximately B$513 million, and electricity prices have remained stagnant, with BPL charging between 10.95 and 14.95 cents per kWH (kilowatt hour), plus a variable fuel surcharge based on a pass-through of the cost of the fuel used by BPL in generating power during the relevant period. During 2017, the fuel charge ranged from a low of just under 12 cents to a high of approximately 15.5 cents per kWH."

Comments

John 4 years, 9 months ago

URCA needs to regulate the price of phone cards and Top Up. Local merchants and street vendors are only making 25 cents on a 5.00 phone card or top up and this is driving lots of them out of business. For most of them top up or phone cards account for more tan 50 percent of their sales. So after a long day they go home with less than 5.00 gross profit on 100.00 sales.

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