After a comparatively quiet second quarter, the mobile market in the Middle East and Africa has bounced back with a record number of new customers. Over 32 million net additions were made in the three months to end September, some 2 million more than were connected in the previous best quarter, Q4 2006. As has been the case for most of this year, the bulk of the growth has come from Africa, rather than the Middle East, with Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa producing the strongest gains. The most notable exception to this generality is Iran, where additional competition is spurring growth.
Since the last review of the region, there have been a number of adjustments to the data, most notably in Nigeria where the regulator has supplied new data on the market. The result is that Glo Mobile, the independently owned operator, is now credited with a larger share of the national total and in fact, market leadership. Its Q2 numbers have been revised upwards to just over 15 million, enough to give it fourth place in the region last quarter, ahead of MTN Nigeria. As a result of this, the proportion of the region’s customers connected to the ten market leaders has risen from around 43% to 47%. However, the regulator’s numbers show that there is a growing issue with inactivity in the country: of the 46.2m connections at the end of September, nearly 8m – or 17% - were inactive.
Top 10 MNOs by Customers
The list of the ten largest companies in the region is, once again, unchanged as far as constituents are concerned. However, there are several positional changes. The top two are not affected - Vodacom SA remains the market leader in the region, with 22.5 million active customers, ahead of TCI of Iran – but third and fourth have swapped places and last quarter’s seventh has dropped to ninth this time. Vodacom has undertaken a major cull of inactive connections in the last quarter, severing some 2.9 million from its list. In the light of this, it is no surprise that the registered base has dropped by some 1.3 million (to 23.3m) though of course, the activity rate has improved from 88.6% to almost 96%.
Second placed TCI continues to grow rapidly, encouraged by the arrival of genuine national competition in the shape of MTN Iran. TCI added 1.7 million new connections in the quarter to take its total to 19.5 million. On the face of it, this looks like a good result, but it has to be seen in context: this is in fact TCI’s slowest quarter for a year and MTN Iran bettered its 1.71 million total by the best part of 0.25 million, taking a majority of net additions for the first time. Third place in the region goes to Glo Mobile, which was sixth at the start of the year but has apparently now overtaken MTN Nigeria as the market leader. This move leaves STC, the Saudi number one, down in fourth place, with 15.8 million customers.
MTN subsidiaries take both fifth and sixth place this quarter, as they did last. MTN Nigeria is now the largest single unit within the group, ahead of MTN South Africa. The Nigerian company added nearly one million new connections to end the quarter with 14.99 million subscribers, while the South African company added 0.67 million, to reach a total of 14.1 million. The four remaining companies on the list are all in North Africa. Mobinil, the FT/Orascom joint venture in Egypt, has risen from eighth to seventh after adding 1.8 million new connections, while Maroc Telecom has also moved up one place and now has a total of 12.8 million. This leaves it marginally ahead of Orascom Algeria, which, despite adding over 700k new connections had fallen from seventh to ninth, with 12.7 million customers. The final place on the list goes to Vodafone Egypt, which, although it failed to match the pace set by Mobinil, nonetheless added an impressive 1.2 million new customers to close the quarter with 12.2 million.
Mobile ownership continues to spread across the region. At the end of June there were over 60 networks with more than one million customers; three months later that number has risen to over 70, with many of these being multi-million operations. All of the top 15 operators have more than six million customers and the three of these in 11th, 12th and 13th places overall - Algeria Telecom Mobile, Celtel Nigeria and Safaricom Kenya – have over nine million. At their current growth rates, all three will pass the ten million mark in the current quarter.
Source: Cellular News.