Spanish mobile operators dogged by churn as fixed telcos benefit

Mobile operators in recession-hit Spain are continuing to lose subscribers to rivals despite efforts to stem the flow, as a near-record number of people switched to a different operator in February.

Reuters cited figures from telecoms watchdog CMT, which said 575,138 people opted for a different mobile plan over the course of February. That was 18 per cent higher compared to the same month year earlier, but lower than the record 633,616 people who switched providers in January 2013.

Vodafone Spain lost the highest number of subscribers to rivals at 95,115, followed by Telefónica's Movistar with 85,161 and Orange Spain with 5,757. Low-cost operator Yoigo, on the other hand, gained 32,424 mobile customers from competitors.

At the same time, fixed operators that have set up virtual network operators (MVNOs) are bucking the downward trend with a rise in subscriber numbers in the first quarter of 2013, benefiting from multi-play bundles that combine fixed broadband and TV services with mobile plans.

Citing unpublished data collected by the industry, Reuters said broadband specialist Jazztel and cable operator ONO gained more mobile customers than any other company in the first quarter: Jazztel took 208,850 clients from other operators in the first three months of the year, while ONO gained 135,201.

Nevertheless, Reuters noted that the two companies have a combined share of just 1.5 per cent of Spain's mobile market.

In contrast, Reuters said Telefónica and Vodafone Spain together lost more than half a million customers to rivals in the first three months. Telefónica's market share fell to 36 per cent in January from 40 per cent the year before.

The mobile operators are now fighting back with their own converged offerings such as Telefónica's Movistar Fusion, which bundles together mobile plans with fixed voice, broadband and TV services. Lluis Borrell, partner at consultancy Analysys Mason, told Reuters that companies offering multiple service bundles would have an edge on the Spanish market in future.

Reuters also noted that Telefónica added 12,088 broadband lines in February in a market that is seeing shrinking mobile lines but growing broadband connections. Figures from CMT show cash-strapped Spaniards shed a total of 250,024 mobile lines in February, while the broadband market added 52,681 connections.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article

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