Mobile subscriptions with unlimited data transfer still getting more popular

At the end of June 2016, there were around 3.8 million broadband subscriptions used only for data transfer in Finland, representing an annual growth of roughly 0.5 per cent. Around 45 per cent of the subscriptions (1.7 million) were fixed broadband connections and the rest (2.1 million) were mobile broadband connections intended only for data transfer.

At the end of June 2016, the number of fixed broadband subscriptions had fallen by roughly 1 per cent compared to the second half of 2015. The number of corporate subscriptions fell by 3 per cent in six months, and the number of household subscriptions by 1 per cent. However, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions, which are not used for any voice or messaging services, increased by almost 2 per cent during the same period of time. Such dedicated mobile broadband subscriptions are used, for example, in tablets and laptops.


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Figure 1: Trend in the number of broadband subscriptions at the end each half-year period (1H/2H).

Besides dedicated data transfer subscriptions, mobile broadband subscriptions also include subscriptions with monthly-charged data transfer in addition to voice and messaging services. Furthermore, there are also mobile subscriptions with data transfer subject to other charges than a monthly fee, and subscriptions used for machine-to-machine data transfer (M2M subscriptions). All of these data transfer types combined, there were up to 10.9 million data transfer subscriptions in Finland at the end of June 2016, representing a growth of 2.2 per cent compared to the end of 2015.

Out of all data transfer subscriptions, around 68 per cent were used by households. Out of mobile broadband subscriptions, around 65 per cent were used by households, whereas in the fixed network, the share of household subscriptions was up to 86 per cent.

More than half (56 per cent) of all mobile subscriptions with data transfer come with unlimited data transfer (5.15 million), whereas at the end of 2012, their share was only 36 per cent. During the past six months, the number of subscriptions with unlimited data transfer grew by more than 7 per cent. Correspondingly, the number of subscriptions with limited data transfer fell from 33 per cent in 2012 to 27 per cent at the end of June 2016. During the past six months, the number of subscriptions with limited data transfer fell by 5 per cent. The percentage of M2M subscriptions out of all mobile broadband subscriptions has remained stable at around 12 per cent over the last 4 years, and the number of these subscriptions grew by almost 4 per cent during the first half of the year.

In relative terms, subscriptions that have reduced the most are those where the user is charged per used data or by some other means. At the end of June, the percentage of such subscriptions of all mobile data transfer subscriptions was only 5 per cent, whereas in June 2012 it was 18 per cent. During the past six months, the number of these subscriptions has decreased by around 2 per cent and among residential customers as much as 9 per cent.


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Figure 2: Breakdown of mobile broadband subscriptions at the end of each half-year period (1H/2H).

75 per cent of mobile broadband subscriptions have connection speed of over 10 Mbps

In recent years, a general trend in broadband subscriptions shows that the slowest connections are being replaced by faster ones. From January to June 2016, the number of at least 100 Mbps subscriptions in the mobile network grew by 17 per cent and the number of 30–100 Mbps subscriptions by as much as 34 per cent. Among corporate customers, the number of at least 100 Mbps subscriptions grew by 47 per cent and the number of 30–100 Mbps subscriptions by 51 per cent. Correspondingly, the number of subscriptions in lower speed categories decreased clearly.

The highest increase in household subscriptions was noted in the 10–30 Mbps subscriptions which grew by 31 per cent between January and June 2016 compared to the previous half-year period. The number of at least 100 Mbps subscriptions in households grew by 10 per cent during the same period of time. The number of subscriptions in lower speed categories decreased, apart from subscriptions of up to 2 Mbps which grew by 3 per cent among residential customers. The growth in the lowest speed category results from introducing new basic data packages for subscriptions which have had no data transfer feature.

The trend of replacing slow connections with faster ones was much slower among fixed broadband subscriptions than in the mobile network during the first half of the year. The number of at least 100 Mbps subscriptions grew by 7 per cent and the number of 30–100 Mbps subscriptions by only 5 per cent. Like in the mobile network, the relative changes to faster connections have been much stronger among corporate customers than among residential customers. During the first half of 2016, the number of corporate customers’ subscriptions of at least 100 Mbps grew by almost 17 per cent and the number of 30–100 Mbps subscriptions by more than 6 per cent, whereas the corresponding percentages among residential customers were 6 and 5 per cent.

Fixed telephone subscriptions continue to decline

Despite the strong growth in mobile broadband subscriptions in recent years, there are still around 1.4 million mobile subscriptions in Finland that are used only for voice and messaging services. However, the number of such subscriptions has declined significantly in recent years, as in June 2012, for example, there were almost 4 million of these subscriptions. The most important factor for the reduced number of such subscriptions is the operators’ tendency to introduce data packages to existing subscriptions without data.

The number of fixed telephone subscriptions has been decreasing for years. At the end of June 2016, there were roughly 493,000 telephone subscriptions in the fixed network which is only half of the number in June 2012. Even compared to the end of 2015, the number of fixed telephone subscriptions fell by approximately 9 per cent.


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Figure 3: Trend in the number of telephone subscriptions in the mobile and fixed network.

Growth of IPTV subscriptions has slowed down

At the end of June 2016, there were around 1.57 million cable TV subscriptions in Finland, showing a growth of nearly 4 per cent from the corresponding period in the previous year. At the same time, there were roughly 393,000 IPTV subscriptions, representing an annual growth of 4.5 per cent. The growth rates of IPTV subscriptions were the highest a few years ago, and since the market has increased more slowly.


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Figure 4: Trend in the number of IPTV and cable TV subscriptions.

Elisa remains the market leader

During the first half of 2016, there were hardly any changes in the market shares based on subscriptions numbers. The market shares of broadband subscriptions remained the same, and Elisa continued to be the major operator in the market. However, in fixed broadband subscriptions Elisa's closest competitor TeliaSonera was only 1 per cent behind, whereas in mobile broadband subscriptions the difference was 5 per cent. DNA is the third largest operator in both markets.

Elisa is also the market leader in fixed network telephone services on the basis of subscription numbers, but the second largest operator is the Finnet Association with its member companies. In the fixed network telephone markets, there are also several smaller companies mainly providing VoIP services for businesses that held around 3 per cent of the market at the end of June 2016.


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Figure 5: Market shares based on subscription numbers at the end of June 2016.

For more information on the number of subscriptions in mobile and fixed networks, visit Statistics and comparisons.

To be able to compare the changes in percentages between the second half of 2015 (2H) and the first half of 2016 (1H), this article only includes such operators in the fixed network that have provided data on both years. The subscription numbers and consumption rates of 1H 2016 include all telecom operators that have reported figures for 1H 2016. In the first half of 2016, FICORA started to collect information on subscription numbers and consumption rates in the fixed network from several new telecom operators. From 2009 to 2014, the statistics included data from 50–60 companies, and in 2015, data was already collected from roughly 80 companies. The statistics on subscription numbers and consumption rates in the fixed network during the first half of 2016 already contains data from nearly 100 telecom operators.


Key words: Internet, Telephone, Broadband, Land-line phone, Mobile broadband, Subscription, Articles


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