Africa cellphone market to surpass 500 million users

Africa will soon pass 500 million cellphone users by the end of this year.

The African mobile market exceeded half a billion subscribers during the third quarter of this year, hitting about 506 million at the end of September, according to a research from AfricaCom DailyNews.

The research which was conducted by Informa Telecoms and Media, one of the orgernisers of the ongoing AfricaCom conference in Cape Town, South Africa, said the milestone coincided with the 25th anniversary of mobile telephony in African continent; the first African mobile network went live in 1985 in Tunisia.

LEADERSHIP gathered at the conference that at the end of the first quarter of this year, GSM subscribers in the continent accounted for 10 pre cent of the global subscriber base, with penetration still very low, though it increased by 18 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

It was also gathered that GSM penetration rate in Africa stood at 48.35 per cent at the end of September, and some African markets have since passed saturation point.

“But penetration in other markets is still less than five per cent, and penetration below ten per cent is typical for rural areas,” AfricaCom Daily News reported.

According to the report, over the five years, the strongest growth rates in mobile subscription are expected to be recorded mainly in East and Central African markets, adding that Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Madagascar are expected to witness increase by more than 100 per cent in 2015.

“Although, the rate of growth in mobile subscription in Africa will be slow as markets mature, the continent continues to offer great opportunities for investors in the voice segment in under penetrated market and also in the non-voice segment with mobile broadband and mobile money services taking off,” said Thecla Mbongue, Johannesburg-based senior analyst at Informa and Telecom Media.

According to findings, the landing of a series of new submarine cables on both the East and West coasts of Africa over the past 18 months has given the continent a good level of international connectivity for the first time, and has greatly expanded the opportunities for data services.

It further stated that an increase in data services would cause a bottleneck in terrestrial backhaul networks and that these networks needed to improve if connectivity was going to be made available to more African, particularly those in the rural rears.

” By 2015, there will be 265 million mobile broadband subscription in Africa, a huge increase from the current figure of about 12 million and accounting for 31.5 per cent of the total of 842 million mobile subscriptions that the continent will have in five years’ time Mbongue said, adding: “There will be almost 360 million users of mobile-money services on the continent by 2014.”

The research further showed that with household broadband in penetration in Africa at just 2.5 per cent, the opportunities for mobile data access services on the continent are significant.

Cellular networks offer a number of advantages over alternative solutions:

  • increased capacity
  • reduced power use
  • larger coverage area
  • reduced interference from other signals

With such a huge growing market, the demand will be there for investments by local and foreign firms, which is a great jobs opportunity especially in Africa’s technology and telecommunications sector.  I’m sure investors will be getting the message loud and clear about the unique opportunity that this situation presents to them, both in the medium and long term.

Africa’s total mobile phone connections versus market penetration

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