Second mobile licence to be offered under new regulator
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. A new independent regulatory authority was established in late 2013 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the government to issue a second mobile licence. SPTC had temporarily entered the mobile market independently using its CDMA network but was challenged about this by MTN in the courts.
In early 2014 the government initiated a new organisational structure for SPTC, by which it would focus on maintaining and operating the national telecom backbone infrastructure while a new subsidiary would operate the telephony business.
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 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. LTE fourth generation (4G) mobile services are expected to be introduced in 2014.
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. Improvements have resulted from several new submarine fibre optic cable systems that have reached the region in recent years.
- New independent regulatory authority;
- Second mobile licence expected;
- Mobile market growth slows under monopoly;
- One of the highest ARPU levels in Africa;
- Uncertainty over national backbone and international gateway regulations;
- New international fibre connections increase internet bandwidth;
- LTE launch expected in 2014.
- SPTC sells stock after closing down its mobile services business;
- Government initiates three-year program to structurally separate SPTC into network and services divisions;
- The Mbabane Internet Exchange Point (MB-IX) is launched, as part of a drive to route 80% of local traffic through local IXPs;
- ITU and EC criticise high MTRs in Swaziland.
Estimated market penetration rates in Swaziland’s telecoms sector – end-2014
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies covered in this report:
Swaziland Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), Swazi MTN, Africa Online, Posix, Real Image, Viettel.