Mobile phone network operators in South Africa say data usage has almost doubled during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Vodacom, South Africa’s largest network operator, said its customer numbers have steadily grown since the country was placed under lockdown in March last year.
In the quarter to the end of December, Vodacom had slightly more than 44 million customers in South Africa.
“Our customer numbers in South Africa have steadily grown over the past few years. Vodacom has also more recently seen a shift in consumer spend and data consumption compared to previous years,” Vodacom said.
“Remote working has increased data consumption, with students/learners using data to study and many people working from home. This has increased data traffic by 43.2 percent as at the quarter ended December 31, 2020.”
According to Vodacom’s trading update for the quarter to the end of December last year, Vodacom South Africa had 22.5 million data customers, which was slightly more than half of its total customer base.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN South Africa’s executive for corporate affairs, said MTN South Africa had 32 million active subscribers by the end of last year. Of those, 15.7 million were active data subscribers and 6.4 million were active rich media digital subscriptions.
“MTN SA’s total data traffic has almost doubled in the past year. With the lockdown, many consumers are spending much more time on their devices for remote learning and work from home requirements, as well as shopping or surfing the internet for various reasons. By using the temporary spectrum, we have been able to significantly increase the number of South Africans using data, through our partnership with the government and public benefit organisations,” said O’Sullivan.
Cell C said its largest revenue base was its prepaid customers.
“The company’s strategy of focusing on more profitable customers is bearing fruit, as the average revenue per prepaid customer has increased by 28 percent on a year-on-year basis, despite a decline in its prepaid subscriber base by 15 percent to 9.2 million customers … The largest contribution to revenue has been data usage.”
Telkom said its data subscription numbers would be reported when it released its results on May 24.
Ignition Telecoms chief executive Valde Ferradaz said internet data was the world’s most valuable commodity, and the government had a responsibility to release spectrum in a manner that guaranteed entry for new market players, lower costs and equitable distribution.
Ferradaz said that without “fairly and responsibly” opening the country’s spectrum to new competition, mobile virtual network operators and investment, the capacity would be wasted.
“Valuable spectrum will be wasted if the same monopolies are allowed to generate bigger wealth, instead of diversifying and allowing for spectrum to be more broadly used. This is the natural evolution by which the government can grow the economy, as they have no choice beyond recognising data plays an invaluable role in that process.