Podgorica – Electronic communications operators planned to invest around EUR 26 million this year, the Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (EKIP) announced, saying that they expect a continuation of the trend of market development and convenience when it comes to services.
The executive director of EKIP, Darko Grgurović, said that in 2021, operators invested EUR 51 million in the development of electronic communication networks and services, which contributed to the further increase in the availability of modern high-quality electronic communication services throughout the territory of Montenegro.
“EKIP currently does not have final data on the amount of total investments of electronic communications operators in the last year. Electronic communications operators planned their investments for last year in the amount of around EUR 33 million, and with the end of the year, the operators will submit data to the regulator about the realized total investments in the electronic communications sector,” said Grgurović in an interview with the Mina-business agency.
He announced that electronic communications operators planned to invest around EUR 26 million this year.
“In the previous ten years, electronic communications operators in Montenegro have invested over EUR 600 million, of which in the previous five, when investments were intensified, almost EUR 400 million,” Grgurović specified.
According to him, the multi-year trend of high investments in the electronic communications sector confirms the fact that in Montenegro we have a stable and predictable legal and regulatory framework, which has created equal conditions for all market participants.
He stated that they expect the development trend of the electronic communications market to continue this year.
In EKIP, they base their optimism for such an attitude on numerous indicators, and in particular they highlighted the continuous growth of the number of users, trends in investments from operators, the results of the spectrum auction for 5G, and the recently signed Declaration on Roaming between the European Union (EU) and the countries of the Western Balkans. .
“We believe that these activities will contribute to the further improvement of the electronic communications market, new benefits when it comes to the services that users use not only here within the framework of our national market, but also in the region, and soon a much more economical and efficient use of data transmission services, i.e. the Internet and in EU countries,” Grgurović announced.
As for the main activities of EKIP that will mark this year, they refer to the monitoring of the implementation of broadband electronic communication networks with a special emphasis on the implementation of mobile networks of the fifth generation – 5G.
“Immediately at the beginning of this year, EKIP will grant mobile network operators approvals for the use of radio frequencies from pioneering bands for the implementation of 5G networks, which they won at the recently held auction,” announced Grgurović.
Also, EKIP will monitor the fulfillment of the requirements regarding the signal coverage of mobile networks, which are determined by mobile operators with approvals for the use of radio frequencies for the realization of public mobile electronic communication networks, and that regarding the coverage of the population of Montenegro with the network signal, which refer to the scope and dynamics of coverage and quality of data transmission, voice telephony and SMS service.
“The control and monitoring of the use of the radio-frequency spectrum will be carried out continuously through the monitoring stations that we built in the previous two decades,” Grgurović added.
The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism has formed a working group that should prepare a draft law, and the deadline for its preparation is the fourth quarter.
Grgurović announced that the market of electronic communications last year, as well as previous years, was characterized by continuity in the development of networks and infrastructure, the implementation of new technologies by operators and an increase in the availability of services and the quality of services for end users.
“We would also like to point out that despite certain barriers they face, operators in Montenegro are constantly investing in the development of infrastructure and the introduction of new technologies and services for users.” At the beginning of March last year, Crnogorski Telekom was the first operator to put the 5G NR network into commercial operation, and the 5G NR network signal is already available to nearly 70 percent of the population. Apart from Crnogorski Telekom, operator One Crna Gora has also put 5G NR into commercial operation,” said Grgurović.
He explained that access via optical cable has become the dominant technology in Montenegro.
“Compared to the end of October 2021, the number of users increased by 9.2 thousand, so EKIP expects that this trend will continue in the coming period, because in the future fixed access networks will be mostly based on connections with optical fibers”, Grgurović said.
Operators in Montenegro offer the service of mobile Internet access with speeds that are comparable to access in fixed networks.
“In October last year, 656.64 thousand users accessed the Internet via mobile networks. This number is 12.9 percent higher compared to the same period in 2021,” Grgurović specified.
He also stated that the results of research on the degree of satisfaction of users of electronic communication services show a high degree of use and a high level of satisfaction with the quality and prices of electronic communication services.
Since 2005, EKIP has been responsible for the regulation of the postal market in Montenegro.
Grgurović said that at the very beginning of EKIP’s work, as a regulator in the postal services market of Montenegro, services were provided by only two postal operators.
A few years later, 11 registered postal operators established their business in this market.
The further work of EKIP and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic caused 31 postal operators to operate on the market in a short period of time.
“During the last year, the situation on the market stabilized, some postal operators returned to their primary activities – tourist, rent-a-car agencies and the like, so currently 25 registered postal operators provide postal services on the postal services market of Montenegro”, specified Grgurović.
When asked how far Montenegro progressed in the digital transformation segment last year, Grgurović replied that the mission of EKIP is reflected in the establishment of a safe and predictable regulatory framework for the development of sustainable and competitive markets for electronic communications and postal services, where quality services are offered to all citizens.
“Considering that we regularly monitor the movement in the markets of electronic communications and postal activities, we can state that progress exists and is visible through statistical data and the positioning of the ICT sector in Montenegro at the global level,” Grgurović said.
According to him, electronic communication networks and electronic communication infrastructure in Montenegro enable the use of the most modern technologies for the provision of electronic communication services.
Currently, there are about 180,500 installed connections with optical fibers (FTTx) in Montenegro, of which almost 90,000 are active.
Regarding household coverage, currently 71 percent of households in Montenegro are covered by FTTx connection.
“This is a good basis for the further development of electronic communications in Montenegro, and it is to be expected that the growth trend of using FTTx connections, as the most modern ones, will continue in the coming years,” Grgurović believes.
When it comes to strengthening the protection of users of electronic communication services, the same is defined by the Law on Electronic Communications, which establishes that EKIP resolves user complaints, considers initiatives and determines the procedure for protecting the interests and rights of users.
“Users are publicly available with information on valid prices, pricing methods and general conditions for providing electronic communications services, since operators are obliged to publish them on their websites,” Grgurović said.
EKIP also publishes the valid General Terms and Conditions of business of operators and price lists of their services on its website, for better information of users.
Grgurović also reminded that, in order to protect the rights and interests of users, EKIP has provided certain services, namely an application for measuring the speed of internet access, nettest.ekip.me, through which users can check the speed of data transfer themselves, which can be useful to them, as evidence in the proceedings initiated against the operator.
The Tariff calculator application, kalkulator.ekip.me, is also available, which helps the user in choosing an electronic communication service that meets his needs and has an informative character.
There is also number portability, a service that allows each subscriber to keep their phone number when changing operators.
Speaking about the results of the spectrum auction, which was held at the end of last year, Grgurović announced that the regulator made a decision to launch a public bidding process for granting approval for the use of radio frequencies in the 700 megahertz (MHz), 3.6 gigahertz (GHz) and 26 GHz for the implementation of public mobile electronic communication networks.
“These three bands are also known as pioneering 5G bands. Their allocation will ensure the conditions for even better services for users and new benefits for the Montenegrin economy on the one hand, but also the preservation and encouragement of effective competition on the market of mobile electronic communication services on the other hand,” said Grgurović.
The status of qualified bidders wa” acquired by Crnogorski Telekom, M:tel and One Crna Gora. The auction ended on December 28, and EKIP will grant approvals for the use of radio frequencies in the first quarter of this year.
“By awarding approval to the winners of the spectrum auction and starting to use these bands, operators will be able to offer their users services at higher speeds, with less delay, and the conditions will be created for the mass connection of a large number of IoT devices,” Grgurović explained.
He assessed that today users In Montenegro are offered all electronic communication services that are provided even in the most developed countries and that fully satisfy their needs, from the aspect of preferences and ability to pay.
EKIP regularly monitors the prices of electronic communications services in Montenegro, regional countries and selected European countries.
“The general conclusion is that the average prices in fixed telephony in Montenegro are lower than the average prices in the region in Europe, while the average prices in the prepaid segment are relatively high compared to the average prices in the region and Europe. In the postpaid segment, we can conclude that the packages of Montenegrin operators are quite competitive in terms of prices and resources they offer as part of the package, in relation to the prices of packages and included resources offered by operators in the region and Europe”, concluded Grgurović, for local media.