SIMs in SSA to exceed 1bn by 2023

Increased mobile subscription in Africa will promote mobile as the platform for creating, distributing and consuming digital content, says Dataxis.
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Increased mobile subscription in Africa will promote mobile as the platform for creating, distributing and consuming digital content, says Dataxis.

The total number of mobile SIMs in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecasted to exceed 1 billion by 2023, from around 800 million in 2017.

This is according to the latest Dataxis research, which indicates that the predicted growth will be driven by the steady increase in the mobile market, as well as growing accessibility to Internet-enabled SIMs.

Mobile subscribers in the Sub-Saharan Africa region account for one tenth of the global subscriber base, and the region's numbers are expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, the research found.

States the report: "The mobile industry plays an increasingly important role in the social and economic development of the region: mobile connectivity has become the main platform for innovation and the driving force for greater inclusion, while the mobile ecosystem, including mobile network operators and device vendors, contributes significantly to economic growth and jobs.

"3G and 4G subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa are anticipated to jump from 35% of the total mobile subscribers in 2017 to 57% in 2023.

"Even though 3G is projected to remain the principal technology enabling mobile Internet access, 4G's share will increase to reach almost 40% of Internet mobile SIMs. This shift derives from the infrastructure development combined with the significant drop in mobile data prices that are expected in the upcoming years."

The growing investment by mobile operators into extending the network was another factor influencing the growing subscriber numbers. "The extended network coverages will serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed mobile broadband networks."

Recently, local telco Vodacom announced that it has reached 80% 4G coverage in South Africa, adding that 99.78% of the population is covered by 3G, and 99.97% is covered by 2G.

The company said it had invested a total of R39.69 billion in the network in SA over the past five years.

Earlier this month, competitor MTN chief technology and information officer Giovanni Chiarelli said the operator had reached over 80% 4G coverage in South Africa.

According to Chiarelli, the operators' 3G coverage had also increased slightly to 97.6%. "We are heavily investing in 2G, 3G, 4G, which is our primary focus from a volume perspective although in order to be ready for the next generation [5th generation technology] we need to start preparation work a few years in advance."

The Dataxis report concludes that the steady penetration of Internet-enabled SIMs will propel mobile as the platform for creating, distributing and consuming digital content and services.

"Mobile will continue to offer sustainable solutions that address the lack of access to services such as health, education, electricity, clean water and financial services, which still affect large portions of the African population."

Kgaogelo Letsebe
Portals journalist

Kgaogelo Letsebe (nee Mamabolo) is a journalist originally from Pretoria, Gauteng. She holds a BTech in Journalism from Tshwane University of Technology (Pretoria campus). With almost 10 years in the media and printing industry, KG as she is known, has honed her writing skills in various media sectors such as business, IT, built environment engineering, and food and beverage technology industry. As an assistant editor, her work has been used in The Butcher magazine, Food Processing Africa digital magazine and Food and Beverage magazine. When she's not frantically chasing deadlines, KG spends time with her husband and daughter, meditates to SA jazz tunes or indulges in African history books.

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