The development of the telephone and broadband subscription volume in the 2000s - Review of international telecommunications statistics

Published 27.01.2015

The number of mobile phone, broadband and mobile broadband subscriptions has experienced an explosive growth in the 2000s, not only in Finland but internationally, too. However, on an international scale, Finland is still one of the top countries in the world with regard to the use of telecommunications services when the subscription volumes are proportioned with the population. The data are based on data published by ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and the European Commission.

Finland's neighbouring countries, Estonia and Sweden, are included in an international comparison concerning the use of telecommunications services. The average of EU countries (28) is also included as an important baseline. From other continents, USA and South Korea are included in the statistical review.

The number of mobile phone subscriptions per inhabitant doubled in a decade

Globally, the number of mobile phone subscriptions has increased in the 2000s steadily and fast. In the surveyed countries, i.e. in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, USA, South Korea and in EU countries, the subscription volume has at least doubled in over a decade. The largest growth has been in Estonia where the number of subscriptions per inhabitant has quadrupled.

In 2013, the number of mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants varied in the surveyed countries between 96 and 172 subscriptions. In terms of mobile phone density, Finland and Estonia are clearly at the top with regard to the surveyed countries and the whole world. Of the surveyed countries, USA has the lowest density in terms of mobile phone subscriptions, 96 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The average of EU countries is 120 to 130 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, similarly to the figures in Sweden.


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Figure 1. The number of mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants between 2000 and 2013. (Source: International Telecommunication Union)

The peak of the strong growth of fixed broadband subscriptions already reached

In 2000, a fixed broadband subscription was still a rarity in Finland. However, in 2013, the number of these subscriptions was already 31 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The number of fixed broadband subscriptions in Finland and Sweden seems to have reached a rather stable level, and no significant growth has occurred anymore during the last few years.

International development has been very similar in all of the surveyed countries. The differences between the countries have remained almost unchanged since 2000. An interesting detail is that the number of broadband subscriptions in South Korea has been, almost through the 2000s, relatively larger compared to the other surveyed countries.

When examining the subscription volumes, it should be taken into account that it is not meaningful to compare the number of mobile phone subscriptions and the number of broadband subscriptions direct with each other. According to FICORA's consumer survey, 60% of Finns use in their household a fixed broadband subscription, although there are only 31 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Thus, one fixed broadband subscription is often used by several persons simultaneously, and usually one household acquires no more than one fixed broadband for its use. Meanwhile, mobile phone subscriptions are usually acquired for personal use, and one person may use several mobile phone subscriptions.


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Figure 2. The number of fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants between 2000 and 2013. (Source: International Telecommunication Union)

In general, the prices of fixed broadband subscriptions have remained, on the average, almost at the same level during the last few years both in Finland and in EU countries. According to the European Commission's statistics, a broadband subscription of 8 to 12 Mbps cost in Finland in 2014 approximately 29 euros per month, whereas the median of EU countries was 31 euros. The European Commission takes into account each country's purchasing power when calculating the median prices.

Ultra high-speed, fixed broadband subscriptions have become more common in the past few years both in Finland and around the world. In 2013, the connection speed in 16% of the broadband connections in Finland was at least 100 Mbps. The share in the whole of EU was, on the average, 5%. Nearly a third of the subscriptions in Sweden are at least 100 Mbps.

Finland and Sweden among the top countries in the world with regard to the mobile broadband subscription volume

In Finland, the extensive marketing and supply of mobile broadband subscriptions began in late 2007 as smartphones became more common in Finland. Especially in Finland and Sweden, the growth of the mobile broadband subscription volume in a matter of couple of years was almost explosive. In 2009, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions was about 70 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. After this, the growth has continued steadily. In 2013, there were already 126 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The data on the number of mobile broadband subscriptions are based on statistics compiled by the European Commission. Thus, non-EU countries are excluded from the statistics.

Here, mobile broadband refers to all the mobile network subscriptions where data transfer is included in the fixed monthly fee, although, for example, the data transfer speed of these subscriptions would be limited after a certain volume of usage.


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Figure 3. The number of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants between 2008 and 2013. (Source: European Commission)

Subscription volumes in Finland still growing

According to the market data collected by FICORA from telecommunications operators in the summer of 2014, the number of mobile network subscriptions is still growing in Finland. The total amount of subscriptions grew by 60,000 subscriptions during the first half of the year. When examining the distribution of mobile network subscriptions based on data transfer agreement, it can be seen that the growth is based on the subscriptions whose data transfer service is included in the fixed monthly fee. During the first half of the year, the number of data transfer subscriptions has increased by nearly half a million subscriptions. At the same time, the number of such mobile phone subscriptions that do not include data transfer dropped by nearly 400,000 subscriptions. Thus, the net growth of the subscription volume is not as large as one might conclude on the basis of the growth of the mobile broadband subscription volume.

However, the number of fixed broadband subscriptions has slightly decreased compared to December 2013 when the subscription volume decreased by approximately 7,000 subscriptions.

Instead of the subscription volume, it is the data transfer speeds of broadband subscriptions that grow, above all, in the fixed network. By mid-2014, the share of 100 Mbps connections, among others, had grown in six months by eight percentage points to 18%. When the number of fixed broadband subscriptions seems to have reached a rather stable level, mobile data transfer seems to have more growth potential with regard to the number of subscriptions. Thus, the growing development of the telecommunications services in the 2000s still continues, and consumers are using a larger number of subscriptions than before. Approximately 40% of households have both fixed and mobile broadband.

Key words: Internet , Telephone , Broadband , Mobile broadband , Prices , Subscription , Articles , Statistics

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