How much SA's telcos are making per user
Vodacom makes the most money on average from customers per month and has the most subscribers in South Africa. This is if you compare data from SA's four major mobile operators as per their latest financial results.
Looking at customer numbers, Vodacom is by far SA's biggest network with 41.6 million users as of 31 March. MTN follows with 29.8 million customers at the end of March; next is Cell C with 16.3 million active customers as of 31 December 2017; and the smallest network remains Telkom Mobile with 5.2 million mobile customers as at 31 March.
Telkom has, however, seen the biggest increase, growing mobile subscribers by over 30% from just under four million the previous year.
When it comes to prepaid subscribers, Vodacom also has the biggest base, of almost 36.4 million, MTN is in second place with 24.3 million prepaid customers and Telkom has over 3.7 million.
Because Cell C is not a listed company, it does not publish financial results as frequently as the other three. Cell C's latest annual results, for the year ended 31 December 2017, did not reveal the customer split between prepaid and postpaid.
The postpaid market, however, remains much smaller than prepaid in SA and this is reflected by the numbers from the telcos. MTN has the highest number of postpaid customers at 5.5 million, Vodacom is close behind with just under 5.4 million, and Telkom has almost 1.5 million contract customers.
Average revenue per user (ARPU) is an indication of the average amount of money that a mobile operator makes from each of its customers per month. It is generally calculated by dividing the average monthly service revenue by the average monthly active customers during the period.
When comparing SA's telcos, Vodacom comes in with a slightly higher overall ARPU of R101. Telkom has the second highest ARPU at R98.19, while MTN's customers spend R96.14 on average per month, excluding telemetry (including telemetry, MTN's ARPU would be R89). Cell C's ARPU is the lowest of the four at R73.
When looking at the postpaid market, Vodacom far outstrips its peers. Vodacom's postpaid customers are spending on average R390 per month compared to R262.43 (excluding telemetry) for MTN customers; R209 for Cell C customers; and 191.90 for Telkom customers.
The prepaid market has far lower ARPU in general and MTN's is the highest at R77.19. Telkom prepaid customers pay R59.62 on average, while Vodacom's prepaid ARPU is slightly less at R58. Cell C's prepaid ARPU is the lowest of the four at R56.
Not all of the operators report the same data points but an interesting one to mention is the number of data customers each has in SA. Out of Vodacom's overall 41.6 million customers, almost half, 20.3 million to be exact, are data customers, while Cell C has 12.6 million data customers out of its total 16.3 million customers. MTN said it had a 14% increase in active data users over the last quarter but did not give an indication of how many data customers it has in total.
Cell C also says it has 9.2 million smartphones on its network, while Telkom has 2.8 million smartphones on its network, which is quite high considering it only has 5.2 million mobile customers. Vodacom said it has 18.5 million smart devices on its network at the end of March 2018.
Smartphones on network
* MTN data is from the group's quarterly update for the period ended 31 March 2018; Vodacom data is from the group's annual results for the year ended 31 March 2018; Telkom data is from the group's annual results for the year ended 31 March 2018; Cell C data is from the group's annual results for the year ended 31 December 2017.