While there was an increase in 4G coverage in Greece, the country still had the second lowest mobile broadband penetration rate for all active users in the EU. This was probably because mobile broadband prices are much higher than the EU average (mobile take-up 49.8%, EU average 84%).
Cyta is the only mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) currently active in the market. Forthnet also expressed an interest in providing MVNO services, but failed to conclude an agreement with one of the MNOs. However, it filed a request for dispute resolution with EETT. Greece lags considerably in relation to the Digital Agenda for Europe targets established in the Broadband Strategy. To make up for lost time, it would benefit from creating the right conditions for private investment, which depend on the the timely adoption and correct implementation of regulatory decisions; the timely release of spectrum necessary for highspeed broadband deployment; and the transposition and smooth implementation of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive.
Fixed broadband market 99% of Greek households enjoyed basic fixed-line broadband in 2016. Despite its challenging geography, Greece managed to increase its coverage of rural areas by one percentage point to 97%, which was above the EU average (93%). Its coverage of households with nextgeneration access (NGA) networks increased by 8 percentage points to 44%, but was still very low compared to the EU average (76%). Only 1 % of households in rural areas had access to NGA networks (EU average 40%). This further emphasises the importance of 4G deployment, where Greece fared well with 80% coverage of households, which was very close to the EU average of 84%. Lack of NGA coverage only partly explained the low NGA take-up, which was the second lowest in the EU. Only 7% of current subscriptions were between 30 Mbps and 100 Mbps. The lowest fixed-line broadband price (12-30 Mbps or higher) was €21.69 compared to €21.33 across the EU. 1 However, it is reasonable to assume that positive developments in NGA network deployment are on the horizon. The market is expected to enter a phase of deployment thanks to the new regulatory measures adopted in the markets for wholesale local access and wholesale central access for mass-market products. The new remedies could lead to DSL speeds being upgraded (vectoring) and help with the deployment of NGA networks in general, protecting investors from overbuild. Correct implementation of the remedies, which is expected to take 31 months until August 2019, would present the regulator with a real challenge. The fact that there was no-one in charge of EETT (the national regulatory authority) for over a year adversely affected both market regulation and spectrum policy. This was evidenced by a 3 percentage point regression in achieving the spectrum target. A new Head was appointed in mid-2016.As the incumbent OTE is the only provider so far to invest in VDSL networks, its market share increased by almost two percentage points from July 2015 to July 2016 to 44.3%, well above the EU average of 40.7%.
Alternative operators continued to rely heavily on local loop unbundling (LLU) at the main distribution frame (MDF). In terms of competitive dynamics, Vodafone Greece completed the acquisition of Hellas On Line in April. As a result, all three mobile network operators (MNO) now have a fixed-line footprint. This is important given the clear trend towards bundled services, especially ‘triple play’. According to the 2015 Eurobarometer survey, 2 60% of Greek households subscribed to a bundled offer (EU 50%), with 56% of households having internet as part of the bundle (EU 40%) and 23 % having mobile in the bundle (EU 23%). On the contrary, given the high penetration rate of digital terrestrial television (DTT) in Greece (82% versus EU average of 43%) and the lack of NGA networks, only 9% of households subscribed to a bundle that included TV (EU 27%). According to data from EETT, the trend towards bundles seemed to continue apace in 2016, with ‘quad’ and ‘triple play services’ being the main drivers3 . In readiness for a phase of NGA deployment, the major alternative operators were exploring strategic co-investment agreements, although they had not ruled out a new round of consolidation.
While no spectrum was assigned for wireless broadband during the reporting year, Greece did extend the rights of two providers to use frequencies in the 1800 MHz band for a period of 18 months following a public consultation. This was because the tender procedure could not be held, owing to delays in appointing a new Head of EETT. Greece extended the rights of use in the 26 GHz band by law. However, no public consultation was ever conducted. 7 EETT is currently implementing Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/339 harmonising the 2010-2025 MHz frequency band for portable or mobile wireless video links and cordless cameras used for programme making and special events. Whilst the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information has not yet unveiled its future plans for the 700 MHz band, 8 Greece is working with neighbouring Mediterranean countries to provide new channels in lower bands in order to be able to migrate its military systems and DTT services (two multiplexers) that currently occupy the band. In 2016, the State Council found that parts of the legislation which Greece intended to use to grant only four nationwide TV licences for general content for broadcasting in DTT violated the constitution. b. EU and national investments in broadband Greece restructured its administration in 2016, bringing all digital policy departments under one ministry (Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information). A public consultation on a new Digital Strategy for 2016-2021 was launched and completed. The strategy relies on seven priority actions, with the deployment of NGA network infrastructure being the first. The Digital Strategy refers to the National Next Generation Broadband Access Plan for 2014-2020, drawn up in June 2015, and updates it with the new Gigabit targets. It reaffirms Greece’s intention to finance NGA infrastructure in areas where there is not already any infrastructure with such NGA capacity. The broadband strategy is based on the assumption that the private sector will fund most such investments, with public intervention focusing mostly on areas plagued by market failure (required funding is expected to be between €1.36 billion and €4.53 billion). Greece is allotting EUR 304 million of ESI Funds to the deployment of broadband infrastructure, specifically to high-speed networks (access/local loop >/= 30 Mbps). At present, only 8.6% of these funds have been used. There are currently no plans for other financial instruments to be used in broadband deployment. The strategy reaffirms Greece’s intention to focus on two projects: the rural extension project (an extension of the rural broadband project), necessary for the country to achieve the target of 30 Mbps coverage; and superfast broadband, which aims to boost the take-up of ultra-fast broadband. This will help Greece hit the 100 Mbps target. According to the NGA plan, required funding is expected to total between €1.36 billion and €4.53 billion. Greece has no regional broadband plans. However, the plan states that regional/trans-regional projects have been put in place. Some public financing resources are being earmarked for the deployment of NGA networks. The operational programme ‘Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ includes €2.54 billion of funding for broadband. The Rural Broadband Project was due to be completed and entered the implementation phase in 2016. The three contractors requested an extension, which was granted until mid-2017. As the competent authority responsible for monitoring and enforcing access, transparency, nondiscrimination and price control obligations laid down by the tender, EETT approved the reference offers. One of the operators has already provided wholesale access. EETT’s one-stop shop for antenna licensing greatly helped reduce the backlog of unlicensed antennas and base stations. 9 However, the main problem lies with town planning authorities, which are not connected online to the one-stop shop. Licensing of the radio network remains one of the challenges facing providers to complete 4G deployment and fully exploit the assigned spectrum.Based on the 2016 Consumer Markets Scoreboard, 14 overall consumer satisfaction on electronic communications services decreased between 2013 and 2015 (e.g. electronic products (-0.2%), TV subscription (-3.4%), Internet provision (-1.5%), fixed telephony services (-0.4%), mobile telephony services (-5.8%).) Bundles According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, Greek consumers could easily compare bundles (84%, second only to Italy), with households the most likely to have changed bundles at least once (80%). It was easier for them to monitor mobile usage (77%, EU average 69%) rather than fixed-line usage (61%, EU average 71%), and they were largely satisfied with the clarity of their contract (78%, EU average 68%). Transparency EETT developed an online tariff comparison and observation tool called Pricescope, which aims to increase tariff transparency. Universal service The scope of universal service currently includes access to a network at a fixed location, comprehensive directory and directory enquiry services, and public payphones. In 2016, an alternative operator (Forthnet) was designated for the first time to provide access at a fixed location for at least 3 years starting from 2017, with maximum compensation of €4.93 million. Net neutrality EETT introduced an additional monitoring mechanism to register and classify consumer complaints on net neutrality. There were no breaches of Regulation (EU) No. 2120/2015 documented in 2016. Article 6 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 states that ‘Member States shall lay down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of Articles 3, 4 and 5.’ The deadline to notify the Commission of these rules and measures was 30 April 2016. Greece failed to notify the Commission of the penalties referred to in Article 6.
The Commission is looking into the matter. General penalties still apply, as explained in the sub-section on roaming. 112 and access for disabled end-users to emergency services The Commission is looking into reports of very long times (28 mins 58 secs) to receive caller location information for calls to the single European emergency number16. Greece also reported an abnormally high ratio of false calls (96.93%) and is currently investigating the reasons for this. Awareness among Greek consumers of 112 remained fairly low (13% knew that they could use 112 in the EU compared to 48% across the EU, while only 6% knew they could use it in Greece, compared to 61% in the EU).