Friday, 31 August 2012

Do tweets foster MNO growth in Africa?

Does social media work for Mobile Network Operators? Certainly, there are a ton of case-studies showing social media being a powerful force in business-to-consumer, with corporate teams scouring Facebook by the minute ready to respond to a customer tweeting about some minor outrage in a tea cup.  

IT News Africa has undertaken a study to see which MNOs have embraced the new channel to market, which begged the question whether there is a link between popularity in the Tweet-sphere and mobile subscriber take-up.

In the Top 10 poll compiled by the journal three countries stood out: Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt. So is it subscriber growth supported by social networking; or it is social networking fuelling subscriber growth?  

MTN Nigeria was top of the Twitter rankings – almost double its nearest competitor. Etisalat Nigeria held sixth spot. Strange that Etisalat, Airtel or Glo don’t appear in the Top 10.

Even stranger when you consider that Etisalat Misr in Egypt is ranked third in Africa – clearly some ‘best practice’ could be shared with other group members, given the task that Etisalat Nigeria has set itself in the next 18-months. The Egyptian MNO has seen what appears to be a significant uptake in 2012. Vodacom is not listed, but Mobinil is. Worth also remember that comments on Facebook and Twitter can be favourable - or they can be highly damning, with many a brave corporate being roasted alive.

In South Africa Vodacom was the lead tweeter. Given that the list so far has consisted of operators that are well-established, 8ta – Telkom’s relative recent entry into mature South African market – is in eighth slot. It comfortably beats fellow national MTN South Africa. It would therefore not be a surprise to find then that South Africa’s other remaining MNO Cell C is also in the Top 10.

Indeed Etisalat Misr and 8ta demonstrate how ‘young’ MNOs can build a sizable fan base amongst a younger audience. Given Branson’s original success at capturing the mobile youth market for his MVNO in the UK, it seems he might have missed a trick or two in South Africa. Further reading:  MVNOs in the Middle East & Africa, with more on the background to Virgin’s new partnership.

Is CAPCOM big enough to make it in Nigeria?

In a logical, and perhaps not unexpected, move three Nigerian Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators plan to merge their operations to form a unit with greater mass and momentum, and so better able to take on the dominant GSM players.

Multilinks, Starcomms and MTS First Wireless are to form a single CDMA network branded CAPCOM.  

Will CAPCOM will have sufficient muscle to reverse the long-term decline in CDMA subscribers? Or is it doomed from the outset to be smaller than its remaining CDMA-rival Visafone – and both will still lack the muscle needed to give the established GSM operators a run for their money? Indeed, CAPCOM’s starting position with around 1.4 million subscribers still leaves it well short of rival Starcomms with around 2.5 million.

Even if one could merge all the extant CDMA operators, the combined outfit with nearly 4 million subscribers would still be a long way short of the smallest GSM operator Etisalat which at the end of Q1 2012 had some 11.9 million subscribers, and was busy eyeing greater things.

Nigerian mobile operators showing CAPCOM market share as at Q1 2012
Source: NCC

There’s a chapter discussing the merits of GSM v. cdma in the ‘Africa Mobile Factbook 2012 – click here to download a copy. I know its a tad tangential, but somewhere in all this could the potential for an MVNO - see MVNOs in the Middle East & Africa - also a free download.

The only operators with smaller bases, according to the NCC, are Nitel's M-Tel (GSM) and ZoomMobile (cdma), both of which are notionally defunct.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

South Sudan mobile market according to Zain

One of the many e-mails that hit the editorial inbox last week was from someone who’d had a trial to our weekly market update service (Africa& Middle East Telecom-Week), saying he could get all the African mobile subscriber data he needed “off the Internet for free”.

Zain – sadly much reduced from the glory days when in had its African operations – still has a first rate Investor Relations team who provide pretty accurate, well-presented and comprehensive data about the markets that they operate in, and the pack for the second quarter 2012 is no exception. But it also proves a point.

South Sudan is currently of interest as a ‘new’ market that has not previously been tracked as an independent entity, so teasing out historical data from what was previously a merged entity is a little more difficult.

And there’s an anomaly on the South Sudan page in the Q2 2012 data pack. Zain provides a mobile penetration figure for South Sudan of 22%, based on a population figure of 10.63 million. This gives a mobile subscriber base of some 2.34 million.

Two snags. Firstly, this figure is unchanged from the figure shown in the Q1 2012 pack; and secondly Zain provides a figure for its market share of 38%. As it quotes its subscriber base in Q2 as 600,000, one might conclude that there are some 1.58 million subscribers in the country.

South Sudan Mobile Subscribers Q2 2012 according to Zain

So which figure is more right? We suspect that 1.58 million is probably closer to the mark, so giving a mobile penetration rate (using Zain’s population figure) of 14.8%, rather than 22%.

So this shows is that even people who are normally very reliable can present conflicting data in a single page. This is what we try and make sense of in the weekly issues of ‘Africa & Middle East Telecom-Week’ – to learn more about the mobile subscriber market in South Sudan take a risk-free, no-obligation trial now.