VOICE services still make up the largest portion of telecom revenues in Slovakia, but market saturation has caused operators to refocus their advertising and revenue structures on a new wave of demand for data services.
"Mobile phone penetration in Slovakia exceeds 85 percent. Therefore, we are very pleased to see increasing demand for mobile data services. We see great potential in mobile data as the voice market becomes saturated," Juraj Droba, corporate affairs director of T-Mobile Slovensko, told The Slovak Spectator.
Peter Tóth, spokesman of Orange, added: "The dynamics of market growth in voice services slows each year and the whole market is close to saturation. The data services market, on the other hand, is just forming, especially in the residential sector, and we expect it to have the highest rate of growth of all telecommunications services."
T-Mobile assigned its increased ARPU (average revenue per user) largely to the growing usage of non-voice services, such as data transfer and MMSes, which accounted for more than 15 percent of its overall revenue in 2005. The company expects this trend to continue.
T-Mobile was the first to offer Slovak customers the high-speed Internet connection EDGE and the 3G network. In October 2005, it also became the first mobile operator in the world to deploy Flash-OFDM technology for delivering a 1mbps-fast broadband Internet connection on a wireless network.
T-Mobile has also joined the government programme Minerva, which holds increased Internet penetration in Slovakia as one of its main goals.
In Orange, where data services currently make up more than 13 percent of overall revenue, the focus has been put on entertainment and multimedia services that enable consumers to download music, video and audio on demand or view mobile television. The company also aims to more than double the amount of the population currently covered by the 3G network.
Fixed line as well
As the dominant player on the fixed line telecom market, Slovak Telekom (ST) sees firsthand how the general demand for voice services has slowed.
Many customers in Slovakia have decided to cancel their fixed line service and switch to using only their mobile phone. Data services are thus becoming an important way to compensate.
"Trends on the telecommunications market show a decrease in demand for fixed- voice services and a growing share of mobile-voice services. This change of strategy [focusing on data services] is connected to our flexibility in using attractive market segments to increase effectiveness," Radoslav Bielka, the spokesman of ST, told The Slovak Spectator.
ST believes the future of fixed telephones lies in the mass boom of broadband Internet and in the development of Internet content, as well as new voice and data services based on IP (Internet Protocol) technologies.
New products will also focus on entertainment. "Triple Play is a solution that will be able to provide several services, [including high-speed Internet acceess, voice-over-Internet services, digital TV, Video on Demand and other forms of multimedia IP communications]," Bielka added.
ST definitely expects changes in fixed-network revenue structures. In 2004, its prosperous sectors (Internet services, DSL and data services for corporate customers) generated 5.9 percent of overall revenues.
That number is expected to rise to 15 percent by 2005 and to as much as 40 percent by 2008.