MTN sees steady RICA response

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Second mobile operator MTN is working hard to ensure all of its subscribers have registered their SIM cards by June, it says.

According to financial results for the year ending 31 December, the operator has registered 81% of its prepaid base and 71% of its postpaid base in accordance with the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).

The law is designed to limit crime committed using cellphones and curb the theft of such devices. RICA requires that anyone who owns a SIM card has to register it with their service provider by providing a copy of their ID document and proof of residence.

MTN has to date spent in excess of R140 million to get its subscribers compliant and plans to spend more ahead of the June deadline. Operators risk been forced to cut off any unregistered SIM cards from their networks post the deadline.

The operator seems to be getting a grip on the process, as it has had to prepare for similar laws in its other operations across the continent.

MTN reported that 34% of its base has been registered in its Nigerian operation; however, it has only until May before it faces cut offs in that region.

MTN's Ghana operation has 70% of its base registered and existing SIMs must be registered by June.

Continued growth

Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Spiwe Chireka explains: “MTN's South African operations appear to have recovered from the impact of RICA, following the impressive growth in subscriber numbers. Nigeria and Ghana continued to perform relatively well in terms of customer growth.”

MTN reported good subscriber growth across the group, increasing by 17.3% for the period, to 18.8 million. The operator attributes this success to an 18.6% increase in the prepaid segment, to 15.5 million users.

“The strong product offering in this segment, including the enhanced MTN Zone offering, was a big contributor to growth,” explains MTN.

“The postpaid segment continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace, increasing its subscriber base by 11.3% to 3.4 million, at the end of 2010,” continues the operator.

Looking forward, incoming CEO Sifiso Dabengwa predicts that the biggest subscriber growth will be at its Nigerian operation, projecting an increase of 4.2 million subscribers in 2011.

Dabengwa predicts a two million subscriber increase in MTN's South African operation, with an overall group subscriber base of 17 million for 2011.

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