Polish MNO Plus is seeing early impact in its more for more strategy and 5G expansion
The telecoms operations of conglomerate Polsat Plus Group (Cyfrowy Polsat), which owns mobile operator Plus (Polkomtel) and fixed operator Netia, have seen its revenues remain largely stable despite losing customers.
Poland’s largest media and telecommunications group delivered its Q2 and H1 results and the news for its mobile operator Plus is having some success with its more [stuff including bundling] for more [money] plan which is working despite how competitive the market remains. Poland is still one of the cheaper markets for mobile services in Europe.
Plus’s contract mobile and internet subscribers – or more accurately, revenue generating units (RGU) – fell slightly in Q2 to 6.22m (down 0.2%) and 1.97m (down 1.6%) respectively. This change was driven by the increasing popularity of data transmission packages in its mobile telephony tariff plans (smartphones) which is linked to the diminishing differences between the sizes of data packages offered in both product lines. The company said the outflow of mobile Internet RGUs was partially offset by the growing number of fixed-line Internet access services.
New more for more plans
In March 2023, Plus introduced new subscription plans for B2C and B2B customers using its mobile voice services and 5G/LTE and fibre Internet access. The new higher priced plans included larger data bundles plus 12 months’ free Disney+ access. They also made 5G available to all its customers: users of post-paid, prepaid and mobile Internet offers.
As a result of its price rises and extra bundles, ARPU crept up in both prepaid and contract customers. Prepaid mobile and internet services dropped to 2.5m and 29000 RGUs respectively (down 4% and 18.9%), despite ARPUs going up a nudge. The former was due to Plus’s support action for providing free communication to newly arrived refugees from Ukraine.
Polsat Plus Group’s total subscribers, which includes TV, fell to 5.85m which the company said was due to the declining popularity of the satellite technology as well as the continued process of merging contracts under one common contract for the household within its base.
The company said it will bundle more services, including its popular 5G services, to reduce churn (currently 7.3%) and improve customer satisfaction. It was now seeing 2.24 contract services (RGU) per customer and believes it can increase this. Customers taking bundles hit 2.45m which equates to 7.4m (RGU).
Plus also introduced special family subscriptions priced from PLN29/50GB to PLN69/250GB. The new 5G/LTE mobile internet offer consists of seven subscription options priced from PLN39/50GB to PLN 129/1000GB. The telco also offers discounts for bundling with pay-TV.
In the first half of the year, the Group had PLN6.49bn (€1.45bn) in revenue (up 4.4%), PLN1.69bn in adjusted EBITDA (down just under 8%), PLN746m in operating profit (down almost 16%) and PLN79.1m net profit (decrease by 84%). At the end of June, the group had nearly PLN3.48bn in cash and cash equivalents. Wholesale revenue fell 2.4% in the same period due to mandated regulatory reductions in interconnect rates, but this was offset by gains in the TV business.
Internet creeps up
In the second quarter of 2023 the average monthly number of users of the Polsat-Interia Group websites and apps amounted to 21m, which represents an increase by 0.2 million YoY (+1.0%) and in the first half of 2023 it amounted to 21.1m, which represents an increase by 100k, YoY (+0.5%).
The Polsat Plus Group, through its Netia acquisition can now offer fibre optic broadband services to more than 6m addresses. Netia provides its services via its own access network with approximately 3.3m homes passed, out of which, as at the end of June 2023, around 2.3m were within the reach of 1Gbps broadband internet.
Netia’s own network is supported by an extensive, nationwide backbone infrastructure, thanks to the cooperation with wholesale partners Orange Polska, Światłowód Inwestycje, Nexera, Fiberhost and Tauron.
Still hunting spectrum
In June, Polish regulator UKE kicked off the 3.6GHz auction with a deadline for Q4. The subject of the distribution are four blocks of 100 MHz each and the minimum price per block was set at PLN450 million. The commitments for bidders include consist in the launch of at least 3,800 base stations by the operators who will obtain the spectrum within 48 months from the date of delivery of the decision.
Plus is a bidder in the 3.6GHz auction and last month also paid PLN300.3m to renew its 900MHz licence for a further 15 years. The telco has also highlighted the lack of information around the 700MHz band despite work kicking off in 2019 around building a unified infrastructure that would cover all of Poland, with the MNOs cooperation with the government to form #Polskie5G. The final conditions or deadlines are still unknown. There is a similar absence of action in the 26GHz band.
Plus extends its 5G Ultra rollout
Plus said that since its June launch of 5G Ultra, offering download speeds of 1Gbps, it has activated nearly 700 base stations covering 171 towns and cities making it available to more than 4.2m people. The technology used uses the aggregation of three radio bands – two in 5G technology (2600MHz and 2100MHz) and additionally the 4G layer (1800MHz) – for fast data transmission.
5G Ultra is available to all customers within range of the service and with a compatible device.
Plus said that in total, more than 20m people nationwide can now access its 5G services (2600MHz) running on nearly 3,500 base stations. In the future, as the 5G network develops, Plus said the current use of the 2.6GHz band will guarantee better land mass coverage than when using the 3.4-3.8 GHz bands only and it will enable it to maintain a competitive edge during subsequent stages of 5G network rollout by offering the possibility of aggregating 5G frequency bands.
Plus has also expanded the range of smartphones and routers compatible with the ultra-fast network. Among the devices are Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 5G smartphones, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 5G, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S23+, Samsung Galaxy S23 and the ZTE MC888 5G router. The telco also supports a number of existing devices from the likes of Samsung, Oppo, Motorola, Xiaomi, Zowee and ZTE.