Global Telecom Revenue Grows Unevenly

Though the global telecommunications business is predicted by virtually all analysts to be growing, that is not necessarily the case in every region. Global telecom revenue is one thing. The fortunes of service providers in specific regions are another matter.

The European telecom service market decreased for the third year in a row, by 1.5 percent, the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association reports. You might blame a tough economy for the contraction, but ETNO points out that in the most-recent year, in a context of moderate economic recovery (+4.2 percent for current gross domestic product in the region), the lagging performance suggests structural changes, not just cyclical economic impact.

But some observers might argue that economic woes are having an impact. And some might predict more turmoil in 2013.

The decline in European fixed telephony revenues is accelerating (-8.3 percent in 2011 and –31 percent over the last five years), driven in part by a negative five percent growth of fixed lines in service. Since 2005, fixed line subscribership is down 22 percent.  The bad news is that mobile revenues, long the driver of industry growth, also are declining (-0.6 percent)

Mobile voice revenues were down 4.7 percent in 2011 (–13.2 percent over the past three years), a decline driven by significant drops in some large countries: Spain (-8.3 percent),
France (-8.2 percent) and Germany (-7.1 percent).

Fixed network broadband revenue is the bright spot, as revenues were up 6.5 percent in 2011.

Mobile services, though, remain the bulk of telcos revenues, accounting for 52 percent of the total market (142.7 billion EUR in 2011).

The report also shows the divergence between European and the United States market, where it comes to revenue growth. Since 2006, U.S. service providers have done better than their European counterparts.

Precisely why that should be the case is not always so clear. One might argue that European markets are more competitive. One might argue European markets are more fragmented. One might argue that calling and texting tariffs have been higher, since there is more international roaming across Europe, compared to the continent-sized U.S. market.

Certainly, regulators have been squeezing revenue by mandating lower charges for cross-border roaming. Those lower tariffs of course will put pressure on gross revenue.

Moreover, Europe's share of the global telecoms market has been declining regularly over the recent years, from 31 percent  in 2005 to just over 25 percent in 2011 as the gap between
global growth (+3.2 percent in 2011) and growth in Europe widens.
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