SA leads Africa in 4G adoption

2015-10-08 11:43 - Duncan Alfreds
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SA faces a mobile data crunch over the delay in making spectrum available. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)


Cape Town – Mobile broadband is growing at the healthiest pace in South Africa and will account for half of all 4G connections in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), says an international report.

According to the GSM Association’s (GSMA's) 'Mobile Economy Report for Sub-Saharan Africa 2015' released on Thursday, 4G deployment is slow in the region, topping out at 6% by 2020.

However, the organisation found that South Africa, which accounts for one third of all Sadc mobile subscribers, will lead 4G network connections.

“South Africa will account for more than half of new 4G connections over the next five years, reflecting an established 4G ecosystem and continued investment in infrastructure rollout by operators,” the GSMA said.

Third-generation networks in SADC will expand from around 25% in 2014 to 50% by 2020 with unique subscribers growing to 54% (164 million), ahead of the sub-Saharan African region at 49% or 518 million.


However, despite the growth in mobile the GSMA found that revenue growth for operators in sub-Saharan Africa is set to slow to just 1% by 2020, topping out at $50.8bn.

Check out the GSMA infographic on Sadc mobile broadband:

“This reflects a number of factors, including the slowdown in subscriber growth but also the uptake of IP-based voice and messaging services from the major international players, such as WhatsApp and Skype,” said the GSMA.

To mitigate the decline in revenue growth, operators are increasingly selling or sharing network towers.

GSMA data showed that tower companies owned less than 1% of towers in 2009, but that number shot up to 29% or 47 500 towers last year.

“Documented examples from Asia and Europe suggest capex (capital expenditure) savings of around 40 - 50% (mostly from combining new sites and towers) and opex (operating expenditure) savings of 20–30% (mostly from fuel and other running costs),” said the organisation.

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