By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Communications sector revenues dipped below $400m for the first time in five years during 2018, with both fixed-line voice and pay TV subscribers falling year-over-year.
These declines, according to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) 2018 annual report, occurred as mobile penetration among Bahamian consumers continued to expand and subscriber numbers rose by 7.9 percent compared to 2017.
Mobile data penetration, though, declined by ten percent to 60.65 subscribers per 100 persons - a drop from 67.36 in 2017. Total broadband Internet subscribers, though, rose marginally to 87,067 nationwide by year-end 2019 with penetration rates standing at 22.51.
“In 2018, the electronic communications sector in The Bahamas generated approximately $378m in revenue, representing a decline from the previous year,” URCA said. The sector employed some 1,200 persons, of whom 55 percent were women.
No explanation was given for the industry’s revenue drop from around $400m in 2017, although it may be connected to the drop in mobile prices and yields as a result of the competition between the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Aliv.
“This vibrant competition continues to produce competitive prices and new offerings on voice and data packages for consumers, and is resulting in growth,” URCA acknowledged.
“The total number of mobile voice subscribers totalled 381,591 in 2018, when compared to 353,540 in 2017, representing a 7.9 percent increase. The mobile voice penetration rate increased in 2018 to 98.64 from 92.44 in 2017.”
It was a different story when it came to mobile data. “There was a decline in the number of mobile data subscribers in 2018,” URCA revealed. “The numbers reflect a reduction from 260,587 in 2017 to 234,654 subscribers in 2018. Correspondingly, mobile data penetration contracted by 10 percent to 60.65 in 2018 from 67.36 in 20171.”
Elsewhere, the regulator added that the decline in fixed-line voice services continues. “There were 113,455 subscribers when compared to 113,852 in 2017,” URCA added. “The penetration rate was estimated at 29.77 in 2017, and dropped slightly to 29.33 in 2018.
“These declines are reflective of global trends as consumers move to more modern voice communication devices and methodologies. Fixed telephone voice penetration rate also declined from 29.77 in 2017 to 29.33 per 100 subscribers in 2018.”
Access to fixed-line or broadband Internet continued to grow, with subscriber numbers nationwide expanding by 0.2 percent to 87,067 from 86,868 the year before.
As for pay TV services, URCA said: “Despite the availability of two operators [Cable Bahamas and BTC] in the market there has been a net reduction in the number of subscribers. In 2018, there were 72,460 pay TV subscribers, a reduction from 76,278 in 2017.”