SA mobile subscribers in 2017: Vodacom vs MTN vs Cell C vs Telkom

 ·28 Jun 2017
mobile operator punch fight MTN Cell C Vodacom Telkom

Vodacom has extended its market lead over its competitors, with an approximate 43% share of customers in South Africa – widening the gap between it and struggling rival, MTN.

South Africa’s mobile operators have all released subscriber data for the 2016 full year, revealing how the networks have grown since 2011.

Vodacom added three million subscribers in the country to take its total to 37.1 million, while MTN saw its numbers grow by 1.7 million to 30.8 million by December 2016.

Telkom’s mobile services have shown strong growth since the 2015 full year, climbing from just over 2.2 million to just under four million in the 2016 full year.

As part of a due diligence in an acquisition deal, Cell C reported official numbers for 2016, showing a surprisingly large drop to 15.3 million subscribers – a massive difference from numbers as high as 24 million subscribers reported in media statements from the operator before.

This sizeable difference means that Cell C’s subscriber market share is down significantly from the 25% in 2015 to just 17% in 2016.

While Cell C has dropped in market share, companies tied to it through MVNO deals have grown.

In mid-2016, Cell C revealed that MVNOs on its network accounted for just over one million subscribers. Cell C is the dominant MVNO network in the country, with FNB Connect, Virgin Mobile, Me&You Mobile, Hello Mobile and many other smaller players using the operator’s network.

The graphs and tables below show South Africa’s mobile market share based on reported figures.

Mobile operator Subscribers (‘000) Market share (%)
Vodacom 37 100 42.1%
MTN 30 800 34.9%
Cell C 15 300 17.3%
Telkom 3 999 4.5%
Other* 1 000* 1.1%
Total 88 199 100.0%

* Cell C MVNOs only

Subscriber numbers in SA

Taking the latest reported subscriber numbers into account, South Africa has about 88.2 million mobile connections – a SIM penetration of around 160%.

Mobile connections far exceed the population of a country as many people have more than one SIM on more than one network for various purposes (i.e. data-only SIMS, etc).

MTN has expressed interest in launching its own MVNO services in the past, and provides the network for Afrihost Mobile to operate on, but neither company has disclosed any subscriber numbers and have thus been excluded.

MTN and Cell C data represents customer numbers at December 2016; Vodacom and Telkom numbers are at March 2017. This is the latest available data for the most recent financial year.

Over time, Cell C’s official data released in December show that it’s ‘massive’ growth story over the past six years isn’t as large as initially thought, though it remains one of the biggest winners.

MTN has had a difficult time with a fluctuating slice of the subscriber pie, but has remained one of the top two players in the country.

Vodacom, meanwhile, has consistently dominated the South African market.

Read: The most popular mobile networks in South Africa

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