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18.03.2009 Business & Finance

Mobile phone subscription hits 98 per cent market penetration

By Samuel Dowuona - Ghanaian Chronicle

Statistics obtained from the National Communications Authority (NCA) indicates that there are 11,962,224 active mobile phone subscriptions in Ghana as at January 2009, representing 98 per cent market penetration of the telecom industry, compared with fixed line subscriptions which stood at 140,676.

The January 2009 figure indicates that whiles mobile phone subscriptions increased by some 16.8 per cent over that of December 2008 figure of 10,242,916 fixed line subscriptions actually dropped from 279,234 at the start of 2008 to its current level. Fixed subscriptions have been dropping since 2002, from a figure of 389,483, the NCA said.

Out of the total number of mobile phone subscriptions, the runaway market leader, MTN, commands a comfortable 6,592,243 representing 55.1 per cent, followed by Tigo with 2,785,714 representing 23.3 per cent and Onetouch (Vodafone) with 1,733,711 also representing 14.5 per cent.

The figures also indicate that Zain Communications through it pre-registration and “You Pay Zain Pays” 100 per cent credit back dash promotions, has within one month gone past Kasapa with 463,824 subscribers representing 3.9 per of the total with Kasapa still trailing with 386,732 subscribers, representing 3.2 per cent.

The figures for the individual mobile operators, as compared to figures obtained for June 2008, indicated that MTN remained the biggest winner recording an increase of 1,053,178 subscribers within the six month period from June to January, representing some 19 per cent growth.

Within the same period, Tigo recorded a rise of 117,398 subscriptions, representing 4.4 per cent increase and Onetouch added on 85,167 subscriptions representing some 5.2 per cent growth.

Kasapa was the only marginal loser over the period with 259 subscriptions being deactivated on Kasapa, representing some 0.07 per cent loss.

Zain did not start operations until December last year.

The June 2008 figures were MTN, 5,539,065, Tigo, 2,668, 316, Onetouch, 1,648,544 and Kasapa, 386,991.

On the international level, Vodafone leads conveniently with 269 million subscribers as at June 2008; MTN recorded 74.1 million subscribers in 21 countries, Zain has 50.74 million subscribers in 22 countries, Tigo recorded 23.4 million subscribers in 2007 and Glo commands over 13 million subscribers in Nigeria alone, with operations in Kenya and Benin also.

But industry experts have said that the figures may not exactly represent the actual number of subscribers, as most people subscribe to more than one network and would therefore have been captured by all of those networks as a subscriber.

“The fact that there are almost 12 million active subscriptions does not necessarily mean there are 12 million subscribers because one person may have more than one active subscription,” experts said.

The experts noted for instance that most of Zain's subscribers could be keeping their subscription to other networks as Zain's huge gains over the one month period of its operations had not had a significant impact on the subscriber levels of the other networks. Meanwhile, US-based Telecom World Congress (TWC) has said that in 2008 mobile telecom subscription in Africa hit the 19 million mark, setting the tone for a robust growth in subscriptions this year.

The five multi-national network operators in Ghana, plus a new entrant, Globacom, are gearing up either to consolidate their gains or to attract as much of the huge unsubscribed market.

Meanwhile Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu has pledged his commitment to Mobile Number Portability (MNP), which has the potential of changing the mobile telecom landscape as to which operators would be the biggest winners in terms of subscriber numbers.

Zain, Kasapa and Globacom have declared their support for MNP, whiles the big players, MTN, Tigo and Vodafone are yet to make their respective positions on MNP public.