Kenya's mobile phone subs hit 28m

More Kenyans are using mobile phones than ever before, but they are also making fewer voice calls as a result of the country's biggest operator, Safaricom, having hiked tariffs.

This is according to the Communication Commission of Kenya's (CCK's) latest quarterly report, which says the East African nation's number of mobile subscribers increased 5.99%, from 26.49 million subscriptions, to 28.08 million during the period 1 October to 31 December 2011.

Mobile penetration rates in Kenya now stand at 71.3% of the country's estimated 40 million population, the CCK says.

However, total local mobile traffic fell from 7.09 billion minutes to 6.70 billion minutes, representing a sharp decrease of 5.58% as compared to the previous quarter. Minutes of use per subscriber, per month, also fell 10.53%, from 89.3 to 79.9.

“This decline could have been as a result of increased mobile tariffs by the major operator, Safaricom, during the period under review,” the report said.

“As a result, there was significant decline in the operators' on-net traffic and consequently an overall decline in local mobile traffic,” the report added.

Safaricom hiked its airtime prices by 25% in October last year, in an attempt to cover for rising operation costs and a 47.4% decline in profit, to Sh4 billion, for the six months ended September 2011.

Safaricom's loss, though, was other telcos' gain. Market share by voice traffic per operator saw Safaricom drop from 88.27% to 77.86% in the quarter.

Meanwhile, Airtel gained 6.24%, from 6.55%, to attain 12.79% market share, and Essar Telecom (yuMobile) recorded 8.53% market share, up from 4.58% recorded during the previous period. Orange gained 0.22%, to record 0.82% market share from 0.60% recorded during the period under review.

As the number of voice calls has dropped in Kenya, the number of those accessing data services in the country has increased.

The CCK says the estimated number of Internet users in Kenya rose 21.55%, from 14.3 million users in the previous period, to 17.38 million during the period under review.

“Kenya has four submarine cables, which have provided huge bandwidth to service providers, enabling them to introduce fast and reliable broadband services to customers, hence growing the data market,” says Danson Njue, a research analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media.

“Also, a drop in data prices and availability of low cost smartphones, such as the Huawei Ideos, has promoted the usage of Internet services as a communication tool.”

Njue says increasing numbers of Kenyans are choosing to communicate using social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype rather than using voice calls.

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