Virus impact over each market - telecom operators, government agencies and regulators' responses - revised forecasts for the next 5 years.
Albania’s telecom market is consistent with developments elsewhere in the region, with fixed-line telephony penetration declining as subscribers migrate to mobile solutions and with ongoing government efforts to improve broadband availability and access conditions. To this end the regulator recently imposed LLU and bitstream access conditions on the incumbent telco Albtelecom.
The country’s small economy is highly dependent on the key trading partners of Italy and Greece. In recent years both of these partners have struggled to develop growth in the face of austerity measures. Such economic considerations have had a marked impact on Albania’s telecom sector, with revenue growth having declined for a number of years before showing marginal recovery from 2014.
Penetration in the fixed-line and broadband sectors remains very low by international standards. Although regulatory obstacles remain, this low penetration provides opportunities for further investment in network upgrades to help propel the country’s economic growth through digital offerings and IP-based technologies and services. Such investment in fixed-line infrastructure is being encouraged by the regulator through amended access measures and by the government through its own funding programs. However, as mobile network infrastructure improves consumers will continue to prefer this platform for voice and data services, and as a result the mobile sector will be the focus for future growth in the overall market.
Recent developments in the telecom sector include the sale of Telekom Albania to Bulgaria’s Vivacom, a deal which has increased the latter’s presence in the Balkan region. In February 2019 Vodafone Albania secured a block of spectrum in the 800MHz band, which it will use to improve its mobile broadband capabilities.
The country has long sought accession to the European Union (EU) which has benefited its telecoms sector through closer scrutiny of its regulatory regime and through the injection of funding to help modernise infrastructure. Albania signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, which came into force in mid-2009. As part of the EU pre-accession process, Albania has received financial aid to build public institutions and improve cross-border co-operation under the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance funding mechanism. Albania has been recognised as a candidate country for accession to the EU since June 2014.
BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.
Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.
The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.
Vodafone Albania, Albtelecom (Eagle Mobile), Telekom Albania (AMC), Cosmote, Turk Telecom, Primo Communications.
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David Brown, Ventura Team
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