Mobile phones represent more than 90% of all telephone lines in Africa. Market penetration passed the 65% mark in early 2012, with an annual growth rate of around 20%. However, individual markets are still growing at 50% p.a. or more, and others stand at less than half the penetration rate. The continent’s most advanced markets have passed the 100% penetration mark.
The introduction of prepaid services and a steady decline in tariffs has meant that two thirds of Africa’s more than one billion people can now afford a mobile phone. However, as lower income groups are being targeted, the declining Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is putting pressure on the network operators profit margins. Price wars have broken out in some markets where a large number of operators have been licensed. Despite this, international investors are still very keen to enter the market through new mobile licences or shares in existing mobile operations in Africa.
Mobile broadband technologies are increasingly being used as a substitute for poor or non-existent fixed-line infrastructure in Africa. As subscriber growth peaks in the voice market, many mobile network operators have established themselves as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and are playing an increasing role in the broadband sector, competing directly with fixed or wireless broadband services such as DSL and WiMAX – a welcome new revenue stream in an environment of shrinking voice ARPU.
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