The South African cellular market reached a milestone of 50-million connections at the end of 2008 – but only 68% of these represented individual users.
This is the first key finding from preliminary research conducted by World Wide Worx for its 2009 annual Mobility study.
The research shows that the average number of SIM connections, or active cellphone accounts, per cellphone user in South Africa began to grow steadily after pre-paid accounts were introduced in 1996. It grew from an average of 1 SIM card per phone user in 1997 to 1.2 per user in 2003 and to 1.47 per user at the end of 2008.
The gap between users and connections is expected to continue to grow as both consumers and businesses find more innovative approaches to cellphone usage.
“[The research] gives the impression that every South African has a cellphone, but that is obviously not possible,” says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck, who is leading the Mobility 2009 project. “It’s become clear that many pre-paid users have a SIM card for each major network to avoid incurring the interconnection fee charged for calls between networks," Goldstuck says. "The low cost of new SIM cards – as little as 50c for a starter pack – also gives anyone the ability to have more than one number.”
The interconnect fee adds R1.25 to the cost of every call and has prompted new approaches to cellphone usage in South Africa.
Goldstuck says that Mobility 2009, backed by First National Bank and Research in Motion, will reveal more about how both consumers and business users innovate to make their cellular lives more effective. It will also shed light on the most significant trends shaping smartphone usage, mobile technology, mobile commerce, the mobile Internet and cellphone banking in South Africa.
“The research will assist in amplifying investment opportunities in the technology," says Len Pienaar, CEO, FNB`s Mobile and Transact Solutions. “In South Africa, cellphones have become the most easily accessible and convenient way of offering services to remote areas and an understanding of cellphone usage and trends is necessary to leverage the technology effectively.”
Deon Liebenberg, regional director for Sub-Sahara Africa at RIM, adds: “The findings of the preliminary research for the annual Mobility survey confirm that South Africa’s cellular market continues to enjoy robust growth, even with market penetration at around 100%. Our own experience reflects that it is not only the number of cellular connections that is growing, but also the applications for which subscribers are using their smartphones. Mobility is changing people's personal and business lives by allowing them to stay in touch with information, applications and other people wherever they are.”
Preliminary research for Mobility 2009 was based on analysis of Government and institutional data, as well as personal interviews with key role players in the cellular sector, including network operators and wireless application service providers.