CEE market declines, but growth routes are still open

Due to a rigorous market regulatory policy and the 2009 economic slowdown, the value of the telecommunications market in Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania) decreased by 14 per cent. Growth will continue to face challenges, due to saturation in the market’s main segments. However, the increasing focus of telecom operators on entering new lucrative spaces, and the revision of current business models, will ensure that increasing growth rates are still achievable.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the market earned revenues of €23 billion in 2009 and estimates this to reach €27 billion in 2014.

“There is still a lot of growth potential within the broadband segment,” notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Edyta Kosowska. “Increasing demand will be expected for high-speed technologies such as FTTH or EuroDOCSIS 3.0, as well as mobile broadband, especially in the peripheral areas.”

The most important driver of telecom revenues will be the development of cross-vertical services such as m-payments, m-commerce and M2M. Operators will also benefit from heightened interest in advanced ICT solutions for the enterprise sector.

Telecom operator strategies in Central and Eastern Europe will not differ much from that of their Western European counterparts. Initially, they intend to focus on churn reduction, while keeping in mind that acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining existing ones. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to leverage their existing customer base, attracting them with new services.

Although some price-sensitive customers have started to increasingly adhere to the level of telecom expenditure, the global economic crisis has had a relatively limited impact on the market. Instead, the leading factor that has had the biggest impact on operators’ revenue drop has been the rigorous market regulators’ policy, mainly in terms of MTRs and roaming tax reduction.

“The challenge for the immediate future will arise from the reality that most market regulators will follow the European Commission’s directions and focus on facilitating market access to other participants,” cautions Kosowska. “This will result in intensified competition.”

Growing competition, especially in the broadband market, will compel operators to revise their current business models. Being a simple connectivity provider will not guarantee reasonable profits. Operators will have to move up the value chain and become end-user providers.

“Telecom operators possessing significant bargaining power and an established customer base will be able to impose conditions on other parties,” concludes Kosowska. “Creating business models with favourable revenue shares or acquiring existing market participants should help operators gain competitive advantages and win additional sources of revenue from new services.”

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