Minus PLUS; cellco exits Albanian market

16 Jan 2018

Albanian mobile provider PLUS Communications completed its shut down on 1 January 2018, having signed agreements in October 2017 to transfer its wireless spectrum to Telekom Albania and Vodafone Albania, with each receiving 50% of its holdings in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands. PLUS had issued a notice to its subscribers in December that year, urging its more than 200,000 users to port their number to another provider if they wished to continue using it, as porting would be impossible after the 1 January deadline.

As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, PLUS entered the market in 2010 but struggled to make an impact on the sector, attributing its difficulties to the regulator’s licensing regime. The operator fiercely opposed the regulator’s strategy of issuing new 3G concessions one at a time, arguing that the process served to establish dominant players. The Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (Autoritetit Te Komunikimeve Elektronike Dhe Postare, AKEP) scrapped the approach when the time came to issue 4G licences, but PLUS nevertheless failed to acquire a concession, leaving it trailing behind its competitors in terms of technological capabilities. In an effort to level the playing field, AKEP made previously-allocated frequencies technology neutral from September 2015, clearing the path for PLUS to belatedly launch 3G services. The measure proved to be too little, too late for PLUS, which was left running to catch up with its entrenched rivals. In Q3 2017 (the most recent available official data), the company claimed 224,197 subscribers – equating to a market share of 6.6% – compared to market leader Vodafone’s 1.48 million users, and 1.22 million and 494,628 claimed by Telekom and ALBtelecom respectively.