ECONOMY

Greeks top cell-phone spending

Greeks spend more on cell phones than most other Europeans, and revenues for the country’s mobile phone operators are in the top spot in Europe in proportion to the whole telecommunications market, according to the latest sector report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Annual revenues of mobile telephony companies, says the OECD Communications Outlook 2005, reached $392 per subscriber in 2003 from $326 in 2002. Greeks are ahead of the Belgians, the Portuguese, the Swedish and many other Europeans. Among OECD member states, the champions in expenses on mobile phones are the Japanese ($932 per subscriber in 2003) followed by the Austrians ($646 per subscriber). The report has found that in 2003 cellular telephony represented no less than 59.6 percent of the total telecoms market in Greece. Only in Korea was that percentage higher, reaching 65.2 percent. Analysts attribute this big share of mobile telephony to the state telecom OTE’s delay in promoting new landline services, the slow penetration of broadband services (for rapid and permanent Internet connection) as well as the obsession Greeks have with their mobile phones. Due to the recent dynamism of cellular telephony and its expensive rates, the telecom market’s revenues in relation to the gross domestic product classify Greece quite highly among OECD countries (in 2003 the telecoms market accounted for 3.97 percent of GDP, with the OECD average at 3.19 percent), despite the embryonic state of the Internet and the new telecom services in Greece. The growth in the sector is more obvious when comparing this with the previous decade: In 1993 the Greek telecom market just about exceeded $1.85 billion. In 2003 it reached $6.8 billion with an average 13.7 percent growth annually, one of the highest among the OECD members. Only Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland beat Greece in that period. The report further notes that the growth of the global telecom services market depends now on the domains of mobile telephony and broadband services. At the same time, OTE seems unable to understand that several landline telephony domains are showing a gradual decline in terms of revenues. Hence the strong providers in the West are starting to act on three different fields, offering as a package video, voice and data (mainly broadband) carriage services. Subscribers to broadband services in OECD countries exceeded the 100-million mark in the third quarter of 2004, but in Greece not even one in 10 Greeks has an ADSL connection today. Telecommunications are bouncing back after the crisis of 2001-2002, which cost fortunes in the stock markets and the loss of thousands of jobs around the world. The telecom services market in OECD member states reached $950 billion in 2003, up by 10 percent from 2002. Within these countries there are 78 telecom service or Internet connection providers, with annual revenues above $1 billion. Among them are also firms which came close to bankruptcy (such as MCI, Global Crossing etc) but are now recovering.