This report focuses on the South African telecommunications industry and the market for mobile devices with an emphasis on telephony, internet and mobile broadband, and the relevant supporting infrastructure. It includes comprehensive information on the state and size of the sector, its major players, and the latest available revenue, subscriber and market share statistics. There is information on regulatory issues, the performance of industry players and corporate actions and other developments. There are profiles of 55 companies including network providers Telkom, Vodacom and MTN, fibre companies such as Vox and Vumatel, and relatively new data companies such as Rain.
The Telecommunications Industry and Retail of Devices
While data traffic has risen significantly, particularly during lockdown, prepaid subscriber numbers have fallen and some operators have reported a decline in service revenue. Experts in the sector believe a new bid for high frequency spectrum which is set to conclude by 31 March 2021 will bring down the cost of data and increase competition in the sector. Voice’s contribution to overall revenue is falling, with the decline being offset by growth in mobile data income. However, data prices are also slowly falling and the intensive-user market of wealthy and contract customers is increasingly mature. The majority of subscriber growth is in the lower-revenue prepaid segment.
The sale of devices, particularly smartphones, is a key aspect of mobile operators’ business strategy. While device sales earn significant revenue for the networks each year, many devices are heavily subsidised and much of their importance lies in the ability to drive growth in data traffic and demand. There are about 53 million active smartphones in South Africa and smartphone penetration continues to grow. Devices such as smart watches and fitness trackers are not yet very common, but ownership has increased noticeably. Large players have introduced relatively cheap smartphones or “smart” feature phones in an effort to drive smartphone uptake and increase the number of data-enabled devices on their networks.