South African mobile market share: Vodacom vs MTN vs Cell C vs Telkom

All four of South Africa’s mobile network operators have published their latest local subscriber data, with Cell C announcing on Tuesday that it has added 600,000 new customers to a total of 16.3 million subscribers.

While this figure is up from the 15.7 million subscribers the network had in June 2017, it is flat from the same 16.3 million reported in December of that year.

MTN recently reported that its subscriber base hit 30.2 million subscribers in South Africa, adding 700,000 new customers, while Telkom and Vodacom both announced increases in their most recent full year results.

Vodacom added 1.5 million new customers, taking it to 41.6 million users in South Africa, while Telkom saw its user base jump to 5.2 million customers – up by 800,000 customers.

South Africa also has a growing mobile virtual network operator market, which is more difficult to track.

The MVNO market includes the likes of Me&You Mobile, Pick n Pay, MRP Mobile and others. Most of these networks run on the Cell C network, however, and the mobile operator pegged the number of subscribers tied to these networks at 1.7 million in its latest report.

Market share

Using these reported numbers, we are able to determine the general overall makeup of South Africa’s mobile market, and which operators dominate, and to what extent.

According to the reported figures, there are approximately 95 million mobile connections in South Africa. This number is not reflective of unique mobile subscribers, but rather the number of active SIMs, attached either to multiple devices or machines.

An approximation of South Africa’s mobile market as reported by GSMA Intelligence for the fourth quarter of 2017 shows that the country has about 90 million mobile connections, giving it a penetration rate of 157%.

It’s clear that Vodacom and MTN dominate the South African market, but the former even more so.

Vodacom’s market share has continued to increase, to the detriment of its two biggest competitors (MTN and Cell C).

The reported data shows that Vodacom owns almost 44% of the estimated 95 million connections in the country, up from 42% at the end of 2017.

MTN and Cell C, meanwhile, have lost share, and Telkom has gained.

The graphs below outline the current state of South Africa’s mobile market share, according to the latest reports.

Over time, it’s clear that Vodacom has maintained its hold as the largest network operator in the country, with MTN fluctuating somewhat in its number two position.

While Cell C’s rise between 2013 and 2015 (when it self-reported subscriber numbers) put a dent in the overall market figures, the shift in definitions for ‘active’ users by unlisted company may have clouded the picture somewhat.

Read: Cell C adds 600,000 subscribers to climb to 16.3 million

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South African mobile market share: Vodacom vs MTN vs Cell C vs Telkom