Southeast Europe is a world apart for telecoms, study finds

Southeastern European countries are still far from EU standards when it comes to liberalisation of their telecommunications markets, broadband penetration and other parameters of modern information societies, a report finds. 

The telecommunications market


In relation to their low income, the percentage of their money that people in Southeastern European countries spend on telecommunication is much higher than in the EU-25: Croats and Montenegrins spend around 300 euro each a year for telecommunications, about 50% of what average EU-25 citizens spend. 


Most of this money is spent on mobile telephony, with Serbia being the only country in the region where the fixed telephone market is larger than the mobile one. 


But even in Serbia the penetration of mobile phones is much higher than with fixed line phones. In Kosovo, the poorest region in Southeast Europe, there are three times as many mobile phones as fixed phones due to a lack of infrastructure. 


Broadband internet



Where the infrastructure is weak, modern technologies allow increasingly to build your own. For many in Kosovo and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, wireless networks are best for accessing the internet. In other countries with, xDSL connections provided by the incumbent telecom operator are almost the only fast access to the internet. At 0.6 broadband connections per 100 inhabitants in the whole region, penetration is still very bad by EU standards. 


Liberalisation of the telecommunications market



Most Southeastern European telecommunication markets have either not been fully liberalised or the liberalisation was not effective. Romania and to a lesser degree Albania are the only countries where alternative operators have managed to gain a considerable market share. In all other countries telephony is effectively a monopoly. 


In most countries, the state still holds more than 50% of the incumbent’s shares. In some the telephone companies are still 100% state-owned. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and in the region’s biggest economy, Turkey, fixed-line telephony is effectively a state-owned monopoly. 


The report, which was commissioned by DG Information Society and is authored by Cullen International, sheds light on the communication technology markets in Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Serbia-Montenegro (including Kosovo) and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Where those countries are still split as a result of the Balkan wars (as is the case with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro), the report looks at the different administrative units separately. A similar - though less detailed - report for the EU-25 is prepared annually by DG Information Society and published under the title 'European Electronic Communications Regulation and Markets'. 

Economic Background


The South-East European Countries which are not - or not yet - members of the EU have more than 100 million inhabitants, more than two thirds of whom live in Turkey. 


GDP per capita in each single one of those countries - with the exception of Croatia - is less than 12 percent of the EU's 22,300 euro (for 2004). In Kosovo, it is just 4% of the EU-25 average. 


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