Mobile subscriber growth on the decline across Sub-Saharan Africa

> Jonas Eiseb

Windhoek – Subscriber growth rates are on a decline across Sub-Saharan Africa, sparking a projected fall in revenue for mobile phone operators according to GMSA Association, which represents the interests of over 800 mobile phone operators across the world. 

Releasing its report on Sub-Saharan Africa, GMSA expects the mobile industry to reach 367 million subscribers in mid-2015 while migration to higher speed networks and smartphones continues to take pace.

The bullishness in the market is however expected to be short-lived according to GMSA with growth expected to decline sharply over the coming years.

“Subscriber growth rates are set to slow sharply over the coming years, with growth in the second half of this decade set to be around 6% compared to 13% in the first half.

“Just under half of the population will have subscribed to a mobile service by 2020, highlighting the challenges that remain in bringing connectivity to unconnected populations across the region,” it said.

Declining revenue is also set to slow across the region, reflecting slower subscriber growth, GMSA explained.

“From a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 7% for 2010–2015, growth is set to slow to 5% out to 2020. The challenge for operators is to continue to monetise the ongoing growth in data traffic and encourage uptake of data-centric services by consumers, while expanding mobile coverage to underserved areas, at a time when traditional revenues are under pressure.”

Mobile growth within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is expected to grow significantly, with adoption rates of nearly 60% expected by 2020.

This will result in 198 million subscribers according to GMSA.

“SADC has the second biggest smartphone market in the region, and the highest smartphone adoption rate at a quarter of total connections,” GMSA said.

Subscriber growth in SADC is further expected to outpace the Sub-Saharan African average of 49% against the 54% witnessed in SADC.

The 4G penetration is expected to increase across SADC by 2020, with South Africa accounting for more than half of the growth.

“Technology migration is well under way in the SADC, with mobile broadband now accounting for nearly a quarter of total connections. This is set to rise to about two-thirds of connections by 2020.

“South Africa will account for more than half of new 4G connections over the next five years, reflecting an established 4G ecosystem and continued investment in infrastructure roll-out by operators,” according to GMSA.

October 2015
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