The broadband internet connection market could be poised for a major shift. Market leader Telefónica had been suffering a seemingly unstoppable hemorrhage of clients as consumers, pressed by the economic crisis to cut costs, sought alternative operators offering better deals, and who in turn managed to improve their networks in order to provide acceptable levels of quality and customer service. The main beneficiary of this was Jazztel, which managed to add 1.3 million clients in record time.
However, this trend could be coming to an end after Telefónica managed to turn the situation around with the introduction of its Movistar Fusión service, which bundles together landline, cellphone, fixed and mobile broadband, and television as part of a single product. Since it was launched in October of last year, Telefónica has been winning back broadband customers - even from Jazztel - after losing ground continuously for 18 months.
This is borne out by the 2012 provisional figures for portability, which allows customers to bring their number with them when they transfer to another operator. Coinciding with the launch of Movistar Fusión in October, Telefónica has added almost a net 130,000 customers, about half of which were ADSL and the rest fiber optic after gaining an average net 43,000 a month. France Telecom's Orange added an average 14,500 clients, Jazztel 10,650 and Britain's Vodafone 1,840, while cable operator ONO suffered a net loss of customers.
Vodafone recovered some ground but along with ONO it lost clients in 2012
Vodafone last week said it was considering laying off 1,000 employees in Spain, about a quarter of its unit's workforce, in the wake of falling prices and line use due to the crisis.
Telefónica announced last month that its Movistar Fusión service had already attracted more than a million customers in the two-and-a-half months it has been on the market. It is also starting to win the portability battle.
This development has been accompanied by another novelty: for the first time in five years Jazztel has been losing fixed-line clients. From a situation in which it gained over 20,000 customers in October and some 10,000 in November, it lost over 1,000 in December.
That was the first time since July 2007 that the company chaired by Cuban businessman Leopoldo Fernández Pujals has lost customers, according to provisional figures. The final figures are due to be published by the Commission for the Telecommunications Market (CMT) in a few months' time. Despite the setback at the end of the year, Jazztel added a net 203,000 clients for the whole of 2012.
Another operator that saw a surprising recovery in its position was Vodafone. After losing customers continuously since the start of 2012, it managed to stem that trend in November when it launched its Vodafone Red product, and began aggressively marketing its ADSL service. As a result, it added more than 3,000 customers in November and over 4,200 in December.
Orange was the most stable operator in the period, gaining an average of some 12,000 clients a month, and was the only one not to suffer a net loss in any month last year.
By contrast ONO's performance was the patchiest. It started the year well, gaining clients in the first two months but then started to go off the boil and lost customers over the whole of 2012.