3G growth healthy in Belarus as mobile market nears saturation

In the first nine months of 2011, Belarus’ mobile market grew by 4.5%, with the number of mobile customers surpassing 11mn in September. By the end of 2011, it is estimated there were 11.18mn mobile subscribers in Belarus, growth of 5.9% over the year and a mobile penetration rate of almost 117%...

 In the first nine months of 2011, Belarus’ mobile market grew by 4.5%, with the number of mobile customers surpassing 11mn in September. By the end of 2011, it is estimated there were 11.18mn mobile subscribers in Belarus, growth of 5.9% over the year and a mobile penetration rate of almost 117%.

BMI believes that although healthy rates of growth should continue into 2012, the market will likely slow over the long term due to increasing saturation. By the end of the newly extended forecast period in 2016, it is believed that Belarus’ mobile customer base will reach 12.74mn, a penetration rate of just over 135%.
Based on data reported by the operators, Belarus had around 1.54mn 3G subscribers at the end of 2011, with the number of subscribers having grown by more than 111% during the year. Although slower growth rates are expected in future, they will nevertheless remain robust. By the end of the forecast period in 2016, a market of 5.15mn 3G subscribers is envisaged, over 40% of the total mobile market.
Belarus’ mobile ARPU forecast is based on historical ARPU data published by Telekom Austria (for mobile business Velcom) and Russia’s MTS (for MTS Belarus). Examined as a market average, the mobile ARPU rate for Belarus increased by 0.9% in 2010 to reach BYR23,140 (US$7.5). For the market as a whole, it is estimated that the average mobile ARPU grew by 11% in 2011 to reach BYR25,694. Although Belarus experienced a currency devaluation in 2011, Velcom and MTS continued to report ARPU growth in local currency terms, fuelled partly by the increasing use of mobile data services and smartphones.

The continuation of steady subscriber growth within Belarus’ fixed-line sector has been attributed to ongoing investments by Beltelecom in the expansion and modernisation of its network. The launch of a triple-play package in May 2011, which combines voice telephony with broadband internet and TV, is also believed to have benefited the fixed-line sector. In 2011 is it estimated that the number of fixed-line connections increased by 1.9% to reach 4.19mn (43.8% penetration). All of these lines were operated by the national incumbent Beltelecom, which continues to have a total monopoly over the provision of fixed-line services.

Meanwhile, by end-2011 the number of Belarusian broadband subscribers (including fixed and mobile subscribers) had risen to over 2.74mn (28.7% penetration). Beltelecom continues to account for the majority of fixed broadband internet connections, with the operator claiming to have over 1mn ADSL-based ‘Byfly’ broadband subscribers in October 2011. Although demand for fixed broadband services remains strong, it has been the spread of mobile broadband connections which has helped to propel the market forward in recent months.

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