WhatsApp Ireland? 4G data-hungry punters ignore landlines and SMS

15 Jun 2018

WhatsApp user. Image: Alex Ruhl/Shutterstock

All-you-can-eat data packages are striking at the heart of traditional voice and SMS services.

As Ireland hurtles towards 50pc 4G mobile penetration, traditional landline voice and mobile SMS revenues are being impacted by the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and others.

This is because consumers and businesses are making good use of affordable all-you-can-eat data packages and ignoring the traditional phone plugged into the wall.

The latest ComReg Quarterly Key Data Report on Electronic Communications for the first quarter of 2018 paints an interesting picture.

Total voice traffic minutes decreased by 1.2pc this quarter and were 1.4pc lower than in Q1 2017.

Mobile minutes form the majority of voice minutes at 77.9pc, with fixed line minutes representing the remaining 22.1pc.

Mobile voice minutes decreased by 1.1pc while fixed voice minutes decreased by 1.6pc this quarter.

People are data-hungry and the machines are coming

On a monthly basis, an average mobile voice subscriber used 212 minutes (a 0.2pc annual increase), sent 77 texts (a 12.4pc annual decrease) and used 5.4GB of data (a 49.4pc annual increase).

Of all mobile subscriptions, 48.2pc were actively using 4G networks in Q1 2018, up from 43.6pc in Q1 2017.

The report also reveals that the internet of things (IoT) is on the march in Ireland.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) subscriptions increased to 881,540, a 24.6pc annual increase, and made up 14.6pc of all mobile subscriptions in Q1 2018.

Think about that for a second: almost 15pc of mobile subscribers in Ireland are in fact machines. These could be SIMs inside vehicles, inside machines on factory floors, various IoT devices such as drones and healthcare devices, inside electricity or gas meters, vending machines and more.

In Q1 2018, Vodafone had the largest market share of M2M subscriptions at 49.3pc, followed by Three, with 48.1pc of market share. Eir had the remaining 2.6pc of M2M subscriptions.

The mobile penetration rate in Ireland was 125.5pc including mobile broadband and M2M subscriptions, and 101.1pc excluding mobile broadband and M2M subscriptions.

At the end of March 2018, there were 6,056,957 mobile subscriptions in Ireland, including mobile broadband and M2M subscriptions. If mobile broadband subscriptions (297,223) and M2M subscriptions (881,540) are excluded, the total number of mobile subscriptions in Ireland was 4,878,194.

Overall electronic communications network and service retail revenues at the end of the quarter were more than €868m.

As of Q1 2018, the mobile operator with the highest proportion of post-paid or bill-based subscriptions was Vodafone (65.0pc), followed by Three (58.9pc), Eir (50.7pc) and Tesco Mobile (15.8pc).

Broadband is a slow but rising tide

ComReg also reported that fixed broadband subscriptions increased to 1.41m, a 0.7pc increase this quarter and up 2.8pc compared to Q1 2017.

The estimated household (fixed and mobile) broadband penetration rate for 2017 was 88pc, higher than the EU average of 85pc. The estimated household fixed broadband penetration rate at the end of Q1 2018 was 68.4pc, up from 67.8pc in Q4 2017.

The fixed broadband per capita penetration rate was 29.2pc, and the per capita penetration rate when you include mobile broadband was 35.4pc.

Average fixed broadband speeds continue to increase. In Q1 2018, approximately 85.2pc of all fixed broadband subscriptions were equal to or greater than 10Mbps, up from 81.1pc in Q1 2017.

Around 73.4pc of all fixed broadband subscriptions were equal to or greater than 30Mbps, up from 67.0pc in Q1 2017.

WhatsApp user. Image: Alex Ruhl/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years