From Statistics Explained
- Data from September 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article presents data on markets and prices for telecommunication services in the European Union (EU). Telecommunication networks and services are the backbone of Europe’s developing information society. Individuals, enterprises and public organisations alike depend increasingly on convenient, reliable telecommunication networks and services. During recent years a shift in the importance of various services can be noted, from wired networks to mobile networks, and from voice services to data services.
Historically, European telecommunications have been characterised by public service monopoly providers, often run in conjunction with postal services. Liberalisation of this market began in the first half of the 1980s and, at first, concerned only value added services or business users, as basic services were left in the hands of monopoly providers. By 1998, telecommunications were, in principle, fully liberalised across the EU leading to considerable reductions in some prices; for those Member States joining the EU in 2004 and 2007, the liberalisation process was completed at a later date.
Main statistical findings
Telecommunications expenditure accounted for 2.8 % of gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU-27 in 2010, compared with 3.3 % in the United States and 3.5 % in Japan (both 2008) – see Figure 1. The highest relative levels of expenditure were generally recorded in those Member States that joined the EU in 2004 or 2007 (data for Cyprus and Malta are not available), in particular in Estonia and Bulgaria, where telecommunications expenditure was valued at over 5 % of GDP in 2010.
The share of the total telecommunications market accounted for by fixed-line voice operations has shrunk, as growth within the telecommunications sector has been concentrated in mobile telephony markets and markets for other data services. In 2008, the incumbent ex-monopoly service providers in fixed telecommunications markets accounted for more than two fifths of international calls across those EU Member States for which data are available (see Table 1), a share that reached 85 % in Malta. By comparison, the share of the leading operator in the mobile market was relatively low in 2010, varying between 31 % in Poland and around one third of the mobile market in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, up to just over three quarters (76 %) of the mobile market in Cyprus; the EU-27 average was 38 %.
The average number of mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants stood at 125 in the EU-27 in 2009 (see Figure 2). It surpassed parity (100) in 24 of the EU Member States, where there were more subscriptions than inhabitants; the three countries where rates were below 100 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants were Austria, France and Latvia. Statistics relating to the number of short-message service (SMS) texts that are sent per inhabitant are also presented in Figure 2, with a considerable range in the values across the EU Member States. While, on average, Bulgarians sent 87 SMS text messages per inhabitant in 2009, the figures in Lithuania and Ireland were more than 30 times as high (around 2 700 messages per inhabitant).
Total turnover, in value terms, is based on sales from all telecommunication services, including leased lines, fixed network services, cellular mobile telecommunication services, interconnection services and internet service provision. In nearly all EU Member States (for which data are available) turnover from mobile services exceeded that from fixed network services in 2009, the main exception being Belgium (see Table 2).
The price of telecommunications fell between 2000 and 2010 in many EU Member States (see Table 3). Price reductions were most apparent for national long-distance calls and international calls (represented here by calls to the United States). Across the EU, the average price of a national long-distance call almost halved between 2000 and 2010, with most of this reduction occurring by 2005, as the average price fell 5 % between 2005 and 2010. The price fall between 2005 and 2010 for an international call was larger, down 19 %, whereas the price of local calls increased by 17 %.
The largest increase (in percentage terms) in the price of local calls between 2005 and 2010 was recorded in the United Kingdom, where the price more than doubled, while double-digit percentage increases were also recorded in eight other EU Member States. By contrast, Denmark recorded the biggest decrease in the price of local calls, down 65 %. In the majority of EU Member States there was a remarkable decrease of prices for international calls between 2000 and 2010; the decrease was less dynamic during the second half of the decade. The convergence in prices for local and national long-distance calls between 2000 and 2010 was notable. Between 2000 and 2005 there was strong convergence between EU Member States in prices for international calls; this was followed by a slight divergence between 2005 and 2010.
Prices of local, national long-distance or international calls varied greatly across the EU Member States in 2010. Local calls were most expensive in the United Kingdom, national long-distance calls in Slovakia and Italy, while the price of international calls was highest in Latvia. The cheapest tariffs for local calls were in Denmark, Bulgaria and Cyprus, while the cheapest national long-distance calls were in Denmark and Cyprus. For international calls (to the United States), the cheapest calls, by far, were from Germany.
Data sources and availability
Data on turnover, mobile phone subscriptions and the average number of SMS come from Eurostat’s collection of telecommunications statistics. The data were provided by the national statistical institutes of the EU Member States collecting information from the relevant regulatory authorities.
Indicators presented in relation to market share refer to fixed-line telecommunications and mobile telephony. The incumbent service provider for fixed-line telephony is defined as the enterprise active in the market just before liberalisation.
Indicators relating to the mobile market refer to the number of subscriptions to public cellular mobile telecommunication systems and also include active pre-paid cards. Note that many people have multiple mobile subscriptions, for example, for private and work use, or for use in different countries.
SMS texts are short-message services, traditionally sent between mobile phones, but also between a range of other SMS-enabled devices and online web services.
Data on expenditure for telecommunications cover hardware, equipment, software and other services. The data are not collected by Eurostat; further methodological information is available from the website of the European Information Technology Observatory (EITO).
Telecommunications prices are based on the price (including VAT) in euro of a 10-minute call at 11 a.m. on a weekday in August up to 2005 and September from 2006 onwards, based on normal rates. Three markets are presented, namely a local call (3 km), a national long-distance call (200 km) and an international call (to the United States). The data are not collected by Eurostat; further methodological information is available from the Teligen website.
Telecommunication networks and services are the backbone of Europe’s information society. Individuals, enterprises and public organisations alike have come to depend increasingly on convenient, reliable networks and services. In recent years, the liberalisation of telecommunication markets has led to considerable reductions in many prices and a wider range of services being provided. This may, in part, reflect the introduction of competition into a number of markets that were previously the domain of incumbent monopoly suppliers. In addition, it may also reflect technological change and increased capacity, which have made it possible to communicate not only by voice, but also over the internet or via messaging services. Market regulation has nonetheless continued, and the European Commission oversees this market with the goal of ensuring that consumers benefit from technological and regulatory changes in the industry. Regulators continue to monitor the significant market power of former monopoly providers, ensure universal service provision and protect consumers. In particular, the European Commission works to ensure inclusive access to telecommunication services for all social groups.
The regulatory framework for electronic communications in the EU was updated in 2009 to take account of developments in this fast-moving field: major developments since the 2002 framework was agreed include the growth in voice-over-internet (VOIP) telephony and the uptake of television services through broadband lines. The framework covers all forms of fixed and wireless telecommunications, data transmission and broadcasting. The revised legislation aims to enable people to benefit from better and cheaper communication services throughout the EU, whether they use mobile phones, fast broadband internet connections or cable-based (television) services. To achieve this, the revised legislation aims to:
- strengthen consumer rights;
- give consumers more choice by reinforcing competition between telecommunications operators;
- promote investment in new infrastructure in particular by freeing-up the radio spectrum for wireless broadband services;
- make communication networks more reliable and more secure.
In March 2012, the European Parliament and Council adopted a first Radio spectrum policy programme for the EU (Decision 243/2012/EU). This puts forward a comprehensive roadmap to contribute to the functioning of the internal market for wireless technologies and services, particularly in line with the Europe 2020 strategy and the Digital Agenda for Europe. The programme covers all types of radio spectrum use that affect the internal market and sets general regulatory principles, policy objectives and priorities. It aims to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of spectrum use, as well as to preserve and promote competition. In line with this programme, in September 2012 the European Commission published a Communication on Promoting the shared use of radio spectrum resources (COM(2012) 478 final) which aims to make better use of the limited available capacity of the radio spectrum in the face of continually growing wireless data traffic; among other points the Communication highlights the need for technologies that facilitate spectrum sharing and the importance of a regulatory framework to make such sharing possible.
On 30 June 2007, a new set of rules on mobile phone roaming charges entered into force. These foresaw that people travelling within the EU were able to make phone calls across borders at more affordable and transparent prices than before. The so-called Roaming Regulation 717/2007 of 27 June 2007 put in place a set of maximum prices for phone calls made and received while abroad (Eurotariff). The European Commission and national regulators thereafter closely monitored price developments, especially for text messages and data services. In July 2009, revised rules were adopted in the Roaming Regulation 544/2009 that cut roaming prices for (voice) phone calls further and introduced new caps on the tariffs for SMS (Euro SMS tariff) to apply through to June 2012. In July 2011, the European Commission proposed a further revision of this legislation, which was adopted in June 2012, as Regulation 531/2012. This revision aims to give customers more choice and information, give alternative operators easier access to the roaming market, and generally bring down prices for data roaming to try to ensure that customers do not pay excessive prices for roaming within the EU. These revised roaming rules will remain valid until June 2022, but will be subject to a review by June 2016 at the latest.
Further Eurostat information
- Science, technology and innovation in Europe
- Science, technology and innovation in Europe – 2007 edition pocketbook
- Telecommunication services (t_isoc_tc)
- Telecommunication services (isoc_tc)
Methodology / Metadata
- Telecommunication services (ESMS metadata file - isoc_tc_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Roaming Regulation 717/2007 of 27 June 2007
- Roaming Regulation 544/2009 of 18 June 2009
- European Commission - Competition - Information Communication Technologies (ICT)
- European Commission – Digital Agenda for Europe – Telecoms and Internet
- European Information Technology Observatory (EITO)