Business News of 2013-12-23

Glo down for the 5th time

Glo Mobile has recorded a dip in customer numbers for the 5th consecutive time, which shows a tough time for the company’s operations in the country.

Glo, whose subscriber base peaked at about 1.68 million in May this year, has since seen its customer numbers drop consistently for five months to close at a little above 1.57 million at the end of October.

Figures from the National Communication Authority (NCA) show four of the six licenced mobile voice telephony operators recorded losses in subscriber numbers during October, leaving tiGO and Vodafone as the only networks which made gains in attracting more customers to their network in that month.

Nonetheless, MTN maintained its position as the country’s biggest mobile network in terms of subscriber numbers despite recording an about-33,000 drop in subscription base to close at 12.73 million.

Vodafone cemented its second position by adding on about 33,000 subscribers to reach 5.85 million. At the same time tiGO also increased its subscriber share by about 105,000, making the network the biggest gainer in the month of October.

However, Airtel and Expresso both recorded decreases in subscriber numbers by about 16,000 and 6,000 respectively to end October with 3,347,173 and 147,731.

The performance of the network operators has put the total mobile access lines in the country at 27.59 million, which shows that there are more mobile phone chips (SIM cards) in Ghana than people.

The growth of mobile voice subscriptions in the country to some extent substitutes fixed-line access. In fact, while mobile voice has continued to increase, fixed-line voice has recorded erratic growth figures -- from a high of 288,000 at the beginning of the year to 275,000 at the end of October.

This development has excited mobile phone network stakeholders, who are of the view that there is significant grey-market in voice telephony to be exploited despite the over-105% penetration rate --while others fear this is an indication that the country’s voice telephony market has reached a saturation point, with opportunities now mainly in the data market.

While the other five network operators have been experiencing erratic performance in subscriber base, Glo’s -- which is the last telecom licencee -- consistent decline in subscriber numbers over the past five months validates government’s decision to halt licensing of new network operators despite interest from other investors to participate in the country’s telecom industry.

According to some telecom analysts, Glo -- which was seen as the industry game-changer with high public goodwill prior to its launch -- has largely been a disappointment, especially as more than a million customers reserved their numbers on the Nigerian-owned mobile network before it went live early last year.

The decline in Glo’s subscriber numbers has largely been attributed to the company’s challenges with network quality and coverage, which has resulted in the firm being fined consistently by the regulator for failing to adhere to quality of service benchmarks.