Development perspective: Consumers warm up to post-paid subscription services as ICT report predicts upward trend

 

BY DAVID WANJALA

Kenyans are beginning to embrace more the mobile telephony post-paid subscription services that have, over the years, remained a hard nut to crack for mobile telephone service providers. 

According to a sector statistics report by the Communications Authority of Kenya for the first quarter of 2014/15 (July-Sept), the number of post-paid subscriptions increased by 47,197, in three months, a 7.1 per cent increase to 712,894 from 665,697. 

The report provides an overview of the performance and development trends in the ICT sector and uses an analysis of indicators from mobile telephony, fixed telephony, Internet/data, electronic transactions, as well as broadcasting and postal and courier.

Best for those with a secured income, post-paid subscription is a contractual commitment and affords providers service tenure of between one to three years.

During the quarter under review, mobile subscriptions increased to 32.8 million from 32.2 million registered during the last quarter, representing a growth of 1.6 per cent. The number of new subscriptions registered during the period was 522,435 compared to 416,390 new subscriptions recorded during the preceding quarter. Pre-paid mobile subscriptions grew by 1.5 per cent to stand at 32 million up from 31.5 million subscriptions posted during the preceding quarter. 

Mobile penetration grew by 1.3 per cent, hitting 80.5 per cent up from 79.2 per cent as the number of local outgoing SMS increased by 1.2 per cent to stand at 6.9 billion, up from 6.8 billion. On average, each subscriber sent about 71 messages per month. Mobile voice traffic jumped to 8 billion minutes up from7.3 billion minutes marking an increase of 9 per cent.

The number of mobile money transfer subscriptions increased by 1.4 per cent to stand at 26.9 million up from 26.6 million. Similarly, the number of mobile money transfer active agents rose to 114,988 up from 109,286 agents, representing a 5.2 per cent growth. 

The number of fixed (wired) lines continued to decline, registering a 4.2 per cent dip during the period under review to stand at 192,778 lines, down from 201,233 lines the previous quarter. Fixed line connections reduced to 50,018 from 52,053 representing a of 3.9 per cent decline. Similarly, the number of fixed wireless subscriptions dropped by 4.3 per cent during the period to stand at 142,760, down from149,180 subscriptions. 

Data/Internet subscriptions maintained an upward trend during the quarter, mainly boosted by the mobile data/Internet subscriptions. There were 14.8 million data/Internet subscriptions up from 14 million in the last quarter, representing 5.8 per cent increase. Mobile data/internet subscriptions rose by a similar margin of 5.9 per cent to reach 14.7 million up from 13.9 million. Consequently, the number of estimated Internet users stood at 23.2 million up from 22.3 million, representing a 4.1 per cent increase. 

 

The International Internet Bandwidth Available (Equipped/Lit) in the country increased marginally during the quarter to reach 847,516 Mbps (Megabytes per second) up from 847,464 Mbps, while the International Internet Bandwidth Used stood at 478,074 Mbps, which was 56.4 per cent of the total available capacity. 

The postal and courier sub-sector showed improvement during the quarter, with 13.9 million letters sent locally, up from 11.8 million, representing a growth of 17.9 per cent. Courier items sent locally too registered a 0.5 per cent marginal increase to stand at 942,147 items, up from 937,619 items. On the international traffic, incoming letters grew by 0.6 per cent to record 24.7 million letters while international outgoing letters recorded a substantial growth of 69.3 per cent to reach 1.2 million, up from 761,315 letters sent.

Kenya, according to Broadband Strategies Toolkit, a World Bank group associated online guide for policymakers, regulators and other relevant stakeholders in broadband development, has experienced a telecommunications, particularly mobile, revolution, making the ICT sector an engine for economic growth. From a slow starter with only 114,000 subscribers seven years after mobile was first introduced, well below the subscription rates of the country’s Sub-Saharan peers, to 22 million subscriptions by September 2010 to the current 32 million, big strides have, indeed, been made.

This revolution, Broadband Strategies Toolkit reports, is spurred by key developments, including the landing of three undersea fibre optic cables, which favourably repositioned Kenya from an infrastructural perspective, particularly international Internet capacity. The undersea cables have been complemented by Kenya’s regional and national fibre backbone projects to drive connectivity in rural areas.

 

In the meantime, the proportion of mobile market shares measured by subscriptions maintained a similar trend over the period. During the quarter under review, Safaricom had a market share of 66.7 per cent, a decline of 0.3 per cent compared to last quarter’s 68 per cent. Airtel’s Kenya’s market share increased to 16.5 per cent from 15.7 per cent. Essar Telekom’s share declined by 0.4 per cent to settle at 7.6 per cent, from 8 per cent the previous quarter. Telkom Kenya’s (Orange) share increased to 9.2 per cent from 8.3 per cent, recording a 0.9 per cent gain. 

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