Spain ditches old telcos for MVNOs as mobile market continues to shrink

MVNOs now account for one in 10 mobile subscription in Spain, while FTTH is also seeing increased uptake.

Spanish mobile users are increasingly ditching traditional telcos in favour of MVNOs.

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According to data published this week (PDF) by the Spanish telecoms regulator CMT, around 1.8 million mobile subscribers changed their provider in the first three months of this year, with half a million moving in March alone – the second highest number of defections in any single month.

In March, 158,000 subscribers signed up with an MVNO, leaving the virtual operators with around 10 percent of the Spanish market.

In contrast, the net losers during the month were Spain's big mobile operators: Telefonica-owned Movistar lost 87,000 subscribers while second-placed Vodafone saw 81,000 customers leave.

The Spanish mobile market shrunk in March, according to CMT – the eighth month in a row it has done so. In March, Spain had a total of 52.5 million mobile lines — a year on year decline of six percent. However, the country now has around three million M2M mobile connections, up nearly 13 percent year on year.

Meanwhile, broadband subscriptions are on the up. In March, there were 11.7 million broadband lines, up 4.3 percent on March last year. Penetration stands at 25.4 percent, with DSL doing most of the heavy lifting: around 80 percent of broadband connections are over DSL.

FTTH is also on the rise: 390,000 lines are fibre to the home, up 87 percent year on year. Spanish incumbent Telefonica accounts for the majority of those, with around 98 percent of all FTTH lines.  

The company is likely to get some more competition over the coming years, however: Vodafone and Orange in March announced a joint €1bn FTTH rollout , which will eventually cover six million homes and businesses.