Fixed-mobile substitution is continuing relentlessly across Europe and, according to research by Analysys, is actually showing signs of accelerating in countries that have already seen substantial migration.
In one such market – Finland – the research estimates that 90pc of all voice minutes will originate on mobile phones by next year.
“In many markets it looks as if fixed voice is going to suffer not the slow and lingering decline that many have predicted, but rather a rapid one,” says Dr Alastair Brydon of Analysys.
The report says in a number of key western European markets – including the UK, Germany, Finland and Belgium – more voice minutes originate on mobile networks than on traditional voice and broadband networks combined.
Finland had the highest level of fixed-mobile traffic substitution in western Europe in the fourth quarter of 2005 – mobile-originated calls accounted for 64.6pc of voice traffic.
However, the country also experienced the greatest increase in this proportion during 2006, by 10 percentage points, to reach 74.6pc in the fourth quarter of 2006.
FMS is also progressing rapidly in markets that have previously undergone little FMS. Germany has experienced much less traffic substitution than the western European average; only 17.5pc of its voice traffic originated on mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2005.
However, this proportion increased by 6.8 percentage points – one of the highest increases in western Europe – to reach 24.3pc in the fourth quarter of 2006.
“The widespread introduction of home-zone tariffs in Germany is having a significant effect, which demonstrates that mobile operators’ actions can significantly increase usage,” says co-author Dr Mark Heath. “Following years of usage stagnation, average outgoing mobile voice usage per subscriber increased by 23pc during 2006.”
“What is particularly worrying for fixed-line operations is not that FMS is happening, but the pace at which it is happening,” adds Rupert Wood, principal analyst at Analysys Research.
“Of course, fixed-network operators are looking to different sources of revenue for growth, but the accelerating decline in core voice revenue is damaging at a time when they are embarking on long and expensive next-generation network re-engineering programmes,” Wood explains.
By John Kennedy