Mobile subscriber growth in SADC on the rise

Mobile subscriber growth in the Southern African Development Community is on the rise, outstripping growth witnessed elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is according to GMSA, a telecommunications network representing the interests of over 800 mobile operators world wide.

Releasing its report on Sub-Saharan Africa this week, mobile growth within the Southern African Development Community is expected to grow significantly, with adoption rates in the circa of 60% expected within five years. “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 according to GMSA.
4G is still at a nascent phase in the region, accounting for just under 1% of the connection base, compared to a global average of 11% according to GMSA. The factors limiting 4G adoption in the region according to GMSA include network coverage, unavailability of 4G spectrum, an underdeveloped device ecosystem and the resultant high costs of ownership of mobile data connections. “4G is gaining traction in several early-adopter markets, particularly Angola, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa. This has been helped by the establishment of enabling regulatory and competitive environments that encourage investment,” GMSA noted.
“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.
On the flip-side however, 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 under-served areas, at a time when traditional revenues are under pressure.”