2011 African Mobile Broadband, Data and Mobile Media Market

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Last updated: 16 May 2011 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 198

Analyst: Peter Lange

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the mobile broadband and data market in 38 African countries as well as the emerging market for mobile content, applications and media on the continent. Subjects covered include:

  • Mobile data services – SMS, MMS, WAP, GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 3.5G, 4G;
  • 3G and 4G mobile broadband technologies – WCDMA, HSPA, EV-DO, LTE;
  • Statistics, trends and analysis;
  • Major market players;
  • Mobile content, applications and media;
  • Mobile TV;
  • Location-based services;
  • M-commerce, m-payments, m-banking.

The countries covered in this report include: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Researcher:- Peter Lange
Current publication date:- April 2011 (7th Edition)
Next publication date:- April 2012

Executive Summary

SMS revenue share shrinking in favour of more advanced services

Wherever 3G mobile broadband services are deployed in sub-Saharan Africa, they quickly take over as the preferred means of access to the Internet, provided that a suitable backbone network is in place. DSL services offered by national telcos on their typically underdeveloped fixed-line networks are quickly reduced to niche market status, as are most traditional ISPs reselling these services or offering their own wireless access.

The extensive national network infrastructure of the mobile operators and their large user bases for voice services place them in a dominant market position for data services as well. The additional revenue is welcome in an environment of rapidly shrinking average revenue per user (ARPU) in the mobile voice market.

In many countries in the region, national fibre backbone networks are being rolled out, and new international submarine fibre optic cables along the continent’s East and West coast are providing the bandwidth needed to connect millions to the Internet, at much lower cost than previously when satellites were the only option. In many cases the mobile operators are building their own fibre backbones under converged licensing regimes.

North Africa has traditionally been in a slightly better position in terms of fixed networks, but even here mobile broadband is quickly outgrowing other access methods. Mobile broadband prices are often comparable to fixed broadband offerings or at least not far behind. In Morocco, Africa’s most penetrated DSL market with some of the lowest prices on the continent, 3G mobile broadband jumped from virtually zero to over 40% of all connections within two years after its 2007 launch and made up almost 75% by the end of 2010.

Using HSPA+ technology, up to 21Mb/s are currently being offered by 3G mobile operators in Africa. The first LTE trials on the continent are currently being carried out by operators in South Africa and Kenya with up to 150Mb/s theoretical downlink speed and 100Mb/s uplink.

In Kenya, the government has announced that it may wish to follow an open-access approach with LTE, licensing an independent company to operate a network from which service providers would then lease capacity. Unlike many other LTE test networks around the world, the operators in both South Africa and Kenya are using their existing 3G spectrum in the 2.1GHz band for the trials while awaiting the allocation of other frequencies.

In the continent’s most advanced markets, m-commerce, mobile content, applications and media have reached a level of development that is beginning to foster an associated advertising and marketing industry.

Mobile data revenue in South Africa had already reached around 13% of total mobile revenue but then fell back slightly to around 10% in 2010 due to price reductions. SMS still represents the bulk of mobile data revenue, but its share has declined in favour of mobile broadband services to about 60%.

In Kenya, the leading operator Safaricom’s SMS revenue has been overtaken by revenues from its M-Pesa mobile banking service. Total mobile data revenue almost doubled to more than US$200 million in the twelve months to March 2010 (representing 19% of total revenues) of which M-Pesa represented 48%, SMS 33% and mobile broadband 19%. Safaricom has announced it aims to have 25% of its revenue coming from data services within two years.

Markets highlights:

  • W-CDMA-based 3G mobile networks have been launched in more than half of all African countries, with rollouts in progress in many others;
  • Most operators have included High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) mobile broadband in their service offerings, providing up to 21Mb/s;
  • Operators in South Africa and Kenya are carrying out the first LTE trials on the continent;
  • Another 3G technology, CDMA2000 1x EV-DO has been deployed in around 30 African countries, offering up to 3Mb/s;
  • There are significantly more 3G mobile broadband users than DSL subscribers in key African markets;
  • New international fibre optic cables and national backbone networks support broadband growth;
  • African mobile operators make up to 19% of their revenues with mobile data services;
  • Mobile data services have helped to reverse declining average revenue per user (ARPU) in some markets;
  • Revenues from mobile banking services have overtaken SMS revenue for Kenya’s leading operator.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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