Sales of mobile phones: only good years

Macau may be a paradise for mobile phones but locals cannot complain about prices. They are, compared to income, the lowest in the world. And apparently there is still room to grow: after all, ‘only’ 90 per cent of the population say they have (at least) one of these devices.

The beginning of the end of the fixed telephone line in Macau coincides with the departure of the Portuguese Administration in 1999. Since that year, the number of fixed lines has been decreasing until reaching an historical low last year: just over 130,000 still exist (there were almost 180,000 in the year of the handover). 

Of course, the main reason Macau residents are dispensing with fixed lines is the mobile. These devices began to explode in step with the growth of the MSAR: in 2001, there were already more mobile devices than fixed lines, with the numbers doubling in two years. 

From 2000 to 2008 the growth has been incredible: about 700,000 mobile telephones were added in these eight years. From then on, if it is true that the numbers never ceased to rise (2.2 million at this time), it is no less true that there was a certain stagnation between 2013 and 2016; by contrast, 2017 was a year of great recovery. 

If mobile phones began to be counted officially in 1995, stored-valued GSM cards appear three years later: only 2,221 in 1991. Today there are over 1.5 million . . .  

The chart above shows that the sale of these cards has grown every year. 

The key indicators for Macau (2016) from ITU, the specialised United Nations agency for information and communication technologies, reveal that Macau exceeds both the Asia Pacific and world average. In some cases, these numbers are really amazing, as with broadband. 

The lowest numbers, however, are those that most interest local consumers: prices! 

In fact, the Macau SAR has the lowest values in several segments of prices: mobile cellular, fixed broadband, mobile broadband 500 MB and mobile broadband 1 GB (all figures calculated as a percentage of gross national income per capita). 

It is enough to compare Asia Pacific with Asia to understand how in terms of prices Macau residents do not seem to have any compelling reasons to complain. 

ITU has confirmed every year that the average price of mobile phone tariffs in Macau is the most affordable of the 175 countries and regions studied. 

Data from the latest Survey on Information Technology Usage in the Household Sector (DSEC) show that less than half of Macau’s population between the ages of 3 and 14 have a mobile phone: there are just over 65,400 people in this age group, with only 27,800 reporting having one (in this context it can make a difference as the range includes children of 3 years and youths of 14). 

From the age of 14 the number of mobile phones is higher than the number of inhabitants, in all age groups, although over the age of 65 years there is a break. 

Other interesting findings are that women like mobile phones more than men: this is especially clear from the 25-64 age group. 

The Survey on Information Technology Usage in the Household Sector also reveals that ‘only’ 90.9 per cent of Macau residents have a mobile phone (561,000 users for a population of 617,500). 

As might be expected, it is among the older groups that the penetration rates of the handset are lower: of the 235,700 ‘elderly,’ only 184,200 own a cell phone, with the percentage of women again higher than that of men.