In a presentation to market stakeholders, the Albanian telecoms regulator the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) has published information on the state of the market as at end-June 2013, in relation to targets set by European Commission (EC) for broadband access. According to the watchdog, fixed broadband subscriptions grew by 5% in the first six months of 2013, to 167,768 from 160,088 at end-2012. Albanian Broadband Company (ABCOM) saw the greatest growth, increasing its user base by 17% to 41,980, whilst incumbent Albtelecom expanded by 2% to 67,855 and Abissnet grew by 7% to 18,982. Tring Communications, meanwhile saw a drop of 12% in its customer base to 10,309. Notably, whilst providers offer broadband speeds of up to 20Mbps, most customers use packages with access speeds of between 2Mbps and 4Mbps. AKEP added that as at end-June 2013, 4700km of fibre-optic cabling had been installed.
In the mobile segment AKEP calculated that 3G connections reached a total of 541,834 in the first six months of 2013, compared to 649,713 at end-2012 and 283,249 at end-2011. Of these, 499,932 were smartphone connections (594,308 at end-2012) and 41,902 (55,402) were USB modems or other devices. 3G networks covered 92% of the nation’s population and 85% of its territory at that date, the regulator added.
Looking forward, AKEP is planning to allocate the remaining 2100MHz licence in Q1 2014, after an earlier attempt to sell off the concession fell through in late 2012 when wireless newcomer PLUS entered a token bid of a single euro (USD1.38) for the authorisation. The regulator is also looking to re-farm the 1800MHz band – currently used to provide 2G GSM services – for the provision of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), along with the ‘digital dividend’ spectrum in the 790MHz-862MHz range, the latter of which will be made available on 17 June 2015 when Albania completes the migration to digital TV. The potential expansion of LTE and 3G into other spectrum bands via re-farming was also suggested for 2020.