Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mobile Subscriptions soar as number portability fails to take off

If you ask any investor who is versed in Botswana’s economic landscape in which sector they would have invested in the last two decades, mobile network companies would top the list, followed by the grey car market, both showing remarkable growth. 

The number of registered simcards continue to soar, further cementing the country’s status as one of the world’s highest mobile penetration. Statistics Botswana’s recent Information and Communication Technology brief for last year’s third quarter (Q3 2019) reveals that mobile subscriptions were recorded at 3.8 million, up by 13.2 percent from the second quarter, which was also coming from the first quarters’ 3.3 million. 

According to Botswana Communications Regulatory Body (BOCRA) in its 2018/2019 annual report, the number of mobile network subscriptions increased by 5 percent to 3.4 million in 2018. With only about three mobile operators, and a population of approximately 2.4 million, the latest data puts the country’s mobile penetration rate in excess of 200 percent – a figure that is thrice the average for other African countries – and way over the world’s average which is projected to grow to 63.4 percent in 2019. 

The high mobile penetration is the result of the country’s dual simcards market, where consumers hold multiple numbers from the three mobile network operators. While the subscriptions have significantly increased in 2019’s three quarters, industry players had warned that the numbers will drastically drop following proposed regulatory changes which will be implemented. 

In March 2019, the ministry of Transport and Communications disclosed to parliament that BOCRA, will implement the mobile number portability (MNP) in the 2019/2020 financial year, but as that financial year comes to an end this month, the project is yet to take off. 

The implementation of MNP will allow customers to switch between wireless carriers without fear of losing their numbers, something which has been a stumbling block.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.