Africa & Middle East Mobile Subscriber Data

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At the end of 2010 there were some 175 mobile operators with live operations in Africa (excluding MVNOs); compared to 158 active in the first quarter 2008 there were some 158. Approximately 60 percent are affiliated in some way with major international telecommunciations groups e.g. Bharti Airtel, MTN, Vodafone, etc.

By the end of 3Q 2010 mobile subscribers in Africa had smashed through the half billion mark and according to Blycroft Mobile Operator database there were some 508.6 million subscribers. Quarterly growth had been falling on a quarter-by-quarter basis until Q2 2010; the resulting upturn in 3Q 2010 is due to Bharti Airtel's arrival in the market, having acquired 15 operations from Zain. Airtel set about winning market share at the cost of yield, and the longer term effects of this strategy have yet to be seen.

Africa and Middle East Mobile Subscribers Q3 2008 - Q3 2010 with quarter-on-quarter change

Source: Industry data & estimates c. 2011 Blycroft Ltd

In the second quarter of 2009 Vodacom's operations in South Africa made it the largest Mobile Network Opertor in Africa - but one year later it had been relagated to fourth place. This clip charts Vodacom's fall from grace, and the emergence of MTN Nigeria as the largest MNO on the continent.

Tracking Africa's Top 10 MNO's 2008-2010

Mobile phone penetration in Africa for 3Q 2008 stood at some 35 percent, and by 3Q 2010 mobile penetration had achieved a satisfactory 50 percent. So far mobile penetration has enjoyed consistant growth over the last eight quarters. If this growth continued then Africa would achieve 100 percent mobile penetration by 1Q 2014. One factor in accessing mobile penetration is the high level of multiple SIM card ownership in Africa, due primarily to the variable coverage provided by individual networks. On its acquisition of the Zain business in early 2010, Bharti put this figure as high as 50% (so a typical African subscriber might own 1.5 SIM cards).

Africa Mobile Subscribers and Penetration Percentage Q3 2008 - Q3 2010

Source: Industry data & estimates c. 2011 Blycroft Ltd

In Africa the quarterly net additions can be seen slowing from 3Q 2008 through to 2Q 2010, after which Airtel's arrival gives a boost to the net additions for 3Q 2010, and sees the Net Additions figure record a remarkable 65% increase, and so reversing the previous trend. Meanwhile the Middle East is reflecting its greater maturity and higher mobile penetration with quarterly net additions trending downwards.

Africa and Middle East Mobile Net Additions Q3 2008 - Q3 2010