Mobile monopoly expected to finally fall amidst legal challenges
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Swaziland’s telecommunications market. Subjects covered include:
- Key statistics;
- Market and industry overviews;
- The impact of the global economic crisis;
- Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
- Market liberalisation and regulatory environment;
- Telecoms operators – privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
- Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
- Infrastructure development;
- Mobile voice and data markets;
- Average Revenue per User (ARPU);
- Internet and broadband development, including 3G mobile;
- Mobile money services;
- Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile).
Swaziland is one of the last countries in the world to abolish an almost complete monopoly in all sectors of its telecommunications market: Until 2011 the state-owned posts and telecommunications operator, SPTC also acted as the industry regulator and had a stake in the country’s sole mobile network, in an uneasy partnership with South Africa’s MTN. In a bid to enter the mobile market independently, SPTC transferred its stake in MTN and the regulatory authority to the government. In return, Swazi MTN finally received a 3G licence and the right to provide its own backbone network and international gateway. However, proposals have been made to reinstate SPTC's monopoly on the national backbone and the international gateway, and MTN is challenging SPTC in the courts about its move into the mobile market.
Despite the lack of competition, mobile market penetration in Swaziland has been well above the African average, but subscriber growth has slowed in recent years. The average revenue per user (APRU) is one of the highest in Africa. Real competition is now required to take the market to the next level. The government is considering to issue another mobile licence to an international operator.
The Internet sector has been open to competition with four licensed Internet service providers (ISPs), but prices have remained high and market penetration relatively low. ADSL was introduced in 2008 and 3G mobile broadband services in 2011, but development of the sector has been hampered by the limited fixed-line infrastructure and a lack of competition in the access and backbone network.
Swaziland has a relatively well-developed fibre optic backbone network. However, being landlocked, the country depends on neighbouring countries for international fibre bandwidth which has led to high prices. A reduction of the high cost of international bandwidth can be expected from the several new submarine fibre optic cables that have reached the region recently.
- Legal dispute between SPTC and MTN;
- Mobile market growth slows under monopoly;
- Second mobile licence expected;
- Uncertainty over national backbone and international gateway regulations;
- One of the highest ARPU levels in Africa;
- New international fibre connections increase internet bandwidth.
Estimated market penetration rates in Swaziland’s telecoms sector – end-2013
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies covered in this report:
Swaziland Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), Swazi MTN, Africa Online, Posix, Real Image.