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Telcos Make Recovery In Data Subscriptions   
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Mobile network operators signed on close to a million new mobile Internet subscribers in May, bringing total mobile data access lines to a little over 9.6 million.

This is a 10.5 percent monthly growth rate over the previous month, which puts operators’ target of achieving a 50 percent access rate by year-end in range.

The National Communication Authority (NCA) said the number of data access lines increased from 8.6 million in April to 9.6 million at the end of May, taking mobile Internet penetration to 37 percent of the population.

The new figure is a significant improvement over the figures and trends recorded in the first four months of the year -- which saw data subscriptions drop from 8.9 million in the first quarter to 8.6 million in April.

MTN, the biggest network operator in the country in terms of subscriptions, saw its market share decline from 66.9 percent in April to 63 percent at the end of May -- as it recorded a 4.3 percent growth in subscriptions, which was below the industry growth rate.

MTN now has six million data customers, in line with its strategy to make data a key driver in the company’s operations. In 2012, MTN’s data revenues increased by 96.1 percent and the trend is continuing with lower data tariffs and bundles.

tiGO, the second biggest data market operator, boosted its market share to 14 percent with a current subscriber base of 1.3 million.

Vodafone also strengthened its subscriber base by doubling its data customer number to about a million, accounting for 11 percent of total subscriptions. Airtel, Glo and Expresso all lost data customers.

Airtel’s subscriber base fell from 843,899 in April to 779,149 in May, with 8 percent market share.

The subscriber base of GLO and Expresso marginally declined to 779,149 and 313,251 respectively, representing 3 percent and 0.49 percent of the market respectively.

Telecom market watchers see data, which is predicted to overtake voice in the next five years, as the new frontier for telecom firms to increase their revenue streams.

Optimism in the data market has been helped by the proliferation of cheap access devices, which have helped to drive mobile data traffic to social media platforms and other Internet applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.

With the current fluctuations in the power sector, more people have also turned their tablets into “home-entertainment centres” and are spending time on the devices, thereby driving data usage and operator revenues.

Market analysts and network operators have called for data standards, monitored by the industry regulator, to be introduced into the market to benchmark data service provision in order to enhance uptake in services.
Source: B&FT

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