MTN’s group revenue increased by 7,1% in the first quarter of 2017. Data revenues were up 29,4% year-on-year, contributing 20% to total revenue.

The company has issued a quarterly update for the period ended 31 March, reporting that MTN South Africa saw a 4,1% increase in service revenue.

MTN Nigeria reported an 11,6% increase in total revenue, while MTN Irancell increased total revenue by 19,3% benefiting from data revenue trends.

Network improvement continued across the group, particularly in the Nigerian, South African and Iranian operations supported by year-to-date capital expenditure at R4 619-million.

Across the group, voice traffic (billable minutes) increased by 2% and total data traffic by 145%.

Group subscribers decreased by 1,5% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) largely as a result of restatements to subscriber numbers in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia.

MTN group has a new CEO, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, who have begun a review of the business to identify where further improvements can be made.

MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter comments: “In the first three months of the year we saw a continuation of the improving operational momentum experienced in the fourth quarter of 2016. While we still have work to do to meet our full-year targets, we continue to leverage off the progress made during 2016 and are encouraged by the progress in project IGNITE* in both South Africa and Nigeria.

“The ongoing network investment in Nigeria is delivering continued improvements in data quality in the metro areas and highlights MTN’s commitment to the Nigerian market notwithstanding the challenging macro environment.

“In South Africa we are making progress on tackling our underperformance in the postpaid segment although it will take time for this to reflect in our financial performance.

“The group continues to work towards achieving our vision to lead the delivery of a bold, new digital world to our customers. We will continue to leverage our scale and enhance our competitive position, benefiting from Africa’s low data penetration and the unique opportunity we have to offer our customers a wide range of digital services across our markets.”

Shuter points out that, in the key markets of South Africa, Nigeria and Iran, significant network investments made over the past few years are underpinning improving revenue trends.

“The network investment planned for 2017 is expected to support further market share gains across our markets,” he adds.

“While our reported subscriber numbers are lower than we had expected, this is largely the result of an ongoing review of subscriber definitions. We are planning to further modernise our internal subscriber definitions to more closely align with the changing mix of revenue streams and will report on this at the end of the first half of 2017.”

MTN South Africa recorded a solid performance in the first quarter with service revenue up 4,1%. This was supported by data and digital revenue which increased by 17,8% and 20,3% respectively, while outgoing voice revenue declined 5,4% YoY as billable minutes declined by 7,5%.

The priorities for the South Africa business remain driving network quality, offering attractive value propositions and improving the customer experience. In the period MTN went live with 515 LTE sites and 53 3G sites. It now has strong network performance in three of the four large metro areas (Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban) and expects this to support a continued improvement in net promoter score (NPS).