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Mobile Services Main Form of Communication in Africa

November 11, 2014

Many people are adopting mobile technology, but it’s staggering how much the developing world has taken to it. Frost & Sullivan has released a report that 96.4 percent of the total phone subscribers in Africa were mobile in 2013.

Only 3.6 percent of customers subscribed to land lines. The reason for the low penetration is considered to be that land-line operators there are government-owned industries, which lack the infrastructure for wide deployment.

Mobile operators have no such constraints and are able to locate wireless stations with optimum line-of-sight placement.

“Mobile penetration, however, is almost saturated in some parts of Africa and mobile network operators are looking for new streams of revenue such as data services," said Frost & Sullivan information and communication technologies industry analyst Naila Govan Vassen.

North Africa in particular is on the verge of saturation, with an average 93.4 percent mobile penetration rate. South Africa, Namibia, Ghana and Gabon have a mobile penetration rate of over 100 percent.

The reason for this penetration is attributed to the use of phones with double SIM cards allowing owners to use two different networks at the same time and to allow cheaper calls between members of the same carrier.

Business and tourist users from abroad also contribute to the high penetration rate. Seychelles, a major tourist destination, has a 195 percent penetration rate.

Carriers will have to focus on rural areas that don’t already have a lot of mobile service to be successful. Governments in the region are focusing more on dealing with poverty, education and healthcare over telecommunications policy. These carriers face extensive regulations.

“Urban dwellers will now become a minority target for telecommunications providers as most have been exposed to technological and communication developments," Vassen said. "To gain market share in the rural areas, participants will have to make communication a commodity."

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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