Belgium's second largest operator by customer numbers, Mobistar, has reported its Q4 07 results, which suggest that it finished the year strongly, adding a record 155k new connections in the final quarter of 2007. This takes its total customer base to 3.49m, with net additions of 337k in the year, up from 240k in 2006. On a proportionate basis, annual growth rose to 10.7% from 8.2% in 2006.
However, these headline figures do not tell the whole story. In fact, most of the growth in 2007, and particularly in Q4, was attributable to 'third party' MVNO customers. In terms of annual net additions, 193k - 57% of the total - were in the MVNO segment, while in Q4 the figures were 112k and 73%. If we strip out new connections to MVNOs, a very different picture emerges. In the retail segment, there were only 145k net additions in 2007, compared to 226k in 2006, while annual growth in this segment was down to 4.6% from 7.8% in 2006.
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Of course, Mobistar does benefit to a certain extent from growth in MVNOs which use its own network, but it might well be concluded that MVNOs are having a deleterious effect on the growth of its own customer base, as the following chart suggests.
Mobistar's financial figures reflect the less than impressive performance of the retail segment. Annual mobile revenues were down 3.6% in 2007 to €1,435m, while mobile EBITDA saw an even greater decline, with a 4.6% drop taking the 2007 total to €593m. The decline in revenues can be explained partly by a significant fall in ARPU, with average monthly ARPU for 2007 down 10.9% year on year to €34.5.
Net additions, MVNO vs Retail
Source: Cellular News.