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AfricaMoney | August 23, 2017

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Mobile internet usage in Sub-Saharan Africa to be twice the global rate by 2019

Mobile internet usage in Sub-Saharan Africa to be twice the global rate by 2019

Mobile users are showing a marked preference for using their devices to complete a variety of activities that are normally performed on laptops or desktops. (Image: Ericsson)

Mobile internet usage in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase to twice the global rate to attain 930 million subscriptions by 2019, from the forecast of over 635 million subscriptions in the region by end of 2014.

The Ericsson Mobility Report released last week shows that the region is rapidly closing in on the global mobile penetration rate, which at the end of 2013 stood at around 92%, compared to around 70% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report also highlights that growth in mobile data traffic will go up by 20 times between 2013 and 2019, whereas growth in mobile voice traffic will increase two-fold from 2013 to 2019.

The reason behind this rapid mobile broadband growth on the Sub-Saharan African market is due to the fact that mobile users are showing a marked preference for using their devices to complete a variety of activities that are normally performed on laptops or desktops.

Thus, the rise in sophistication of social networking platforms has played a role in the growth of mobile traffic.

These platforms, which are used to share and disseminate information, are currently used by 74% of Sub-Saharan social network users to send messages to friends, by 62% to check their friends updates, 46% use it to upload photos/videos to social media while 15% stream content from these platforms.

The relatively low cost of mobile phones and the continuous drop in prices has led to them becoming affordable for consumers from most segments or income brackets, especially those from the rising middle-class.

However, 47% of Sub-Saharan mobile users believe that mobile data is still too expensive, even though they also believe that mobile data is cheaper and more accessible than fixed line internet. The region is a relatively price-sensitive market and for mobile services to fully flourish, costs must be minimized.

The increase in affordable smartphones in Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile market will contribute to a rise in 3G and 4G technologies and a subsequent increase in subscriptions.

Data from the Ericsson Mobility Report goes on to show that 75% of mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa will be 3G or 4G by the end of 2019.

At a country level, Nigeria and South Africa are still the leading Sub-Saharan countries in terms of mobile subscription numbers as of the first quarter of 2014, followed by Kenya, Congo and Ghana. In terms of net additions per country, Nigeria leads, followed by Congo, Uganda and Ghana.

Finally, GSM will continue to be the main technology used in Sub-Saharan Africa over the coming years due to wider prevalence of 2G enabled handsets, and will cover 80 percent of the population by 2019. However, WCDMA/HSPA coverage will grow from 20 percent in 2013 to 65 percent by 2019. LTE will also grow from just 5 percent in 2013, to cover 40 percent of the population in 2019.

Globally, the report said that smartphone subscriptions reached 1.9 billion in 2013 and are expected to grow to 5.6 billion in 2019. Around 65 percent of all mobile phones sold in the first quarter of 2014 were smartphones.

While the majority of mobile subscriptions today, at around 4.5 billion, continue to be for basic phones, but it is predicted that the global figure for smartphone subscriptions will exceed those for basic phones by 2016.

However, regional variations will abound. In 2019, the number of smartphone subscriptions in Europe will be around 765 million – surpassing the total population number. In comparison, 50 percent of handset subscriptions in Middle East and Africa will be for smartphones.

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