This is the Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Regulator’s (TRR) first telecommunications market monitoring report (Sector report). It looks at the state of telecommunications market in Vanuatu and focuses predominantly on developments that occurred largely during the period from 2014 to 2016. The report also examines current trends in telecommunications markets as well as briefly looking at key events and developments in the industry since market liberalisation in 2008.
Since the introduction of competition in 2008 and the establishment of TRR in 2009, the telecommunication’s sector and industry has experienced healthy growth in Vanuatu, with significant increases in access, subscriber growth, and market revenue; with total telecommunication revenue exceeding 4.5 billion vatu in 2016.
This growth has been predominantly driven by the large increase in use of mobile technologies; with mobile phones becoming the primary mode of communication across the country, bringing deep social changes. This development has been stimulated by reduced access and usage costs, and greater mobile coverage created by competitive pressures as well as the ongoing reduction in handset and equipment costs driven by improvements in technology. These significant developments have caused mobile penetration to increase to 80% in 2016, from 12% in 2007.
Mobile subscriber growth even grew strongly in 2015, despite the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam in March of that year. This was attributed to the growing demand for mobile access, and the fast recovery efforts by the mobile operators and the other supporting stakeholders to fix their damaged networks and reconnect users as quickly as possible.
The introduction of the ICN1 submarine cable in January 2014 stimulated a substantial increase in access and usage of the internet with the increased availability of higher-speed internet services on both fixed and mobile networks, and larger data download plans. International bandwidth has grown by over 650% since January 2014 demonstrating this trend.
The number of fixed internet subscribers, particularly fixed wireless subscribers, experienced a significant increase with the introduction of the cable and are now just under 10% higher in 2016 than they were 2014. Annual fixed internet market revenues have also grown considerably and are 21% higher in 2016 when compared to the total for 2014.
Competition in telecommunications markets has been most vigorous and effective in recent years in reducing prices, improving services and stimulating innovation and investment in the area of mobile data services. Such improvements have included the evolution from 2G technologies to those that support data services such as GPRS/EDGE, then later 3G, and 3G+,with 4G being recently introduced in 2016; each of which supported greater and greater data speeds. The advertised costs of prepaid mobile data bundles now typically cost 1 vatu (VT) per megabyte (MB) or less; as much as 50 times less than 5 years ago.
The increased availability of mobile data, due to significant reductions in data and handset costs, and increased network coverage, have also encouraged the uptake by consumers of over-the-top (OTT) services such as Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp. The use of social media and OTT services has led to a significant decline in the use SMS messaging.
Total mobile call volumes continue to increase steadily. However, this has been growing slower than the growth of subscriber numbers - indicating that per user averages are going down.
International call volumes have continued to drop steadily, decreasing by 20% since the launching of the submarine cable. This decline, contrary to subscriber and call volume trends generally, has likely been caused by subscribers switching to using OTT services to make video or voice calls internationally, such as Skype and others, which has been enabled by the improved speeds and price of internet services created by the launch of the cable.
Unlike the number of fixed internet subscribers’ the number of fixed telephony subscriptions has continued to decline slowly as subscribers substitute their fixed landline for mobile. However, fixed revenues and call volumes have not experienced a similar decline which may be due to increasing use by corporate clients.