In Portugal, the number of calls made (10 billion) and the volume of minutes consumed via mobile networks (25.8 billion) increased by 2.7 percent in 2016, according to Portugal’s National Communications Authority. The growth is ascribed to the increased penetration of bundled offers integrating mobile and fixed services and offering zero-rated calls. This contributed to growth in off-net traffic of an average 23.2 percent per year in the last five years.
On-net traffic fell by 3.6 percent in 2016, decreasing for the fifth consecutive year. Despite the increase in mobile-fixed traffic (4.9 percent), only 5 percent of calls are destined to fixed networks. Mobile users sent 11.1 percent fewer SMS in 2016, a drop higher than the average reduction in recent years (9.2 percent). The average monthly number of messages sent per user was 200, the lowest value since 2010.
This finding from Portugal, a mature market, shows that voice calling, while certainly not a vibrant sector of the mobile economy, is still a force to be reckoned with in terms of network maximization and still very much in demand with users—provided the price is right.
The bundled offers from operators that include zero-rated calls and integrated services have evidently incentivized Portuguese users to make increasingly heavy use of off-net calling, which has grown at a sharp rate (over 23 percent a year) for the past five years. However, the slight shrinkage in on-net traffic shows that voice calling is not inherently a fast-growing service. And SMS is definitely on the decline, due to increasing use of OTT messaging services, which we have frequently written about.
Mobile operators will not be looking to voice calls, either on-net or off-net, as a source of revenue growth. But they will be aware that this “legacy” service is still vital and useful to customers and definitely desirable, under the right pricing and packaging circumstances. Attention to maintaining and improving voice-calling quality is, therefore, important for operators, as is creative plan design with respect to voice.