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South Africa - Mobile Market - Overview, Statistics and Forecasts


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South Africa has a vibrant mobile market that has seen rapid uptake since competition was introduced to the sector in the 1990s. Market penetration is well above 100%, driven by separate subscriptions for voice and mobile broadband services, following the launch of third generation (3G) and LTE services.

Mobile broadband services rival available DSL fixed-line offerings in terms of both speed and price, and have consequently outpaced them in terms of subscriber numbers, although the introduction of LTE technology (also referred to as 4G) was held back by delays with suitable frequency spectrum allocations.

While emerging as the country’s leading broadband providers, the major mobile operators are also branching out into fixed services, fibre backbone networks, international fibre connectivity, mobile banking and entertainment in a rapidly converging environment. Fixed-line incumbent Telkom SA has reacted by launching its own mobile network.

The network operators are increasingly forced to find innovative ways of distinguishing themselves from the competition in order to gain and retain customers, and to streamline their operations. There has been speculation about mergers and acquisitions (M&A) among the smaller players, and major infrastructure sharing deals have been concluded. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) have so far failed to have a major impact on the market.

Companies covered in this report:

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom SA (Heita, 8ta), Virgin Mobile.


1. Synopsis
2. Overview of South Africa’s mobile market
2.1 Mobile statistics
2.2 Market liberalisation and licence obligations
2.3 Community service telephones (CST)
2.4 Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC)
2.5 Infrastructure sharing
3. Regulatory issues
3.1 Prices
3.2 Interconnection
3.3 Handset subsidies
3.4 International gateways
3.5 Fees and obligations for 1800MHz spectrum
3.6 SIM card registration
3.7 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
3.8 Quality of service (QoS)
4. Mobile handsets
5. Major mobile operators
5.1 Vodacom South Africa
5.1.1 Vodacom’s move into the wireless broadband market
5.2 MTN South Africa
5.2.1 MTN Zone
5.3 Cell C
5.4 Telkom SA (8ta)
5.5 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)
6. Mobile data services
6.1 Overview
6.2 Mobile data revenue
6.3 SMS
6.4 MMS
6.5 WAP
6.6 GPRS
6.7 EDGE
6.8 BlackBerry
7. Mobile broadband
7.1 Overview
7.2 3G and 3.5G (HSPA)
7.2.1 Vodacom
7.2.2 MTN
7.2.3 Cell C
7.2.4 Telkom SA
7.3 LTE (4G)
7.4 Smartphones
8. Mobile content and applications
8.1 Push-to-Talk (PTT)
8.2 Mobile TV
8.3 Mobile music
8.4 CellBook
8.5 M-commerce
8.6 Mobile advertising
8.7 Location-based services (LBS)
8.8 Manobi
8.9 Mobile social media
9. Forecasts
9.1 Forecast – mobile subscribers – 2014, 2017
9.2 Forecast – mobile broadband users – 2014, 2017
9.3 Notes on scenario forecasts
10. Related reports
Table 1 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in South Africa – 1999 - 2013
Table 2 – Mobile subscribers in South Africa by operator – March 2012
Table 3 – Vodacom South Africa subscribers and market share – 2002 - 2012
Table 4 – Vodacom South Africa key statistics – year ended March 2012
Table 5 – MTN South Africa subscribers and market share – 2002 - 2012
Table 6 – MTN South Africa key statistics – three months ended September 2012
Table 7 – Vodacom South Africa broadband subscribers – 2006 - 2012
Table 8 – Telkom SA mobile subscribers – 2009 - 2012
Table 9 – Forecast mobile subscribers in South Africa – 2014; 2017
Table 10 – Forecast mobile broadband users in South Africa – 2014; 2017
Chart 1 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in South Africa – 2002 - 2013
Chart 2 – Vodacom South Africa smartphone vs. dongle users – 2006 - 2012
Chart 3 – Vodacom South Africa mobile data usage by device type – 2011 - 2012
Exhibit 1 – Spotlight on Vodacom GSM community payphones

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