Business News of 2014-04-23

Telecom subscriber numbers grow

Subscriber base for mobile voice telephony in the country has reached a whopping 28,615,446 as at the end of February, this year.
This represents a growth of 0.69 per cent over the previous month’s figure of 28,419,649. Of the number of subscribers recorded, telecoms giant, MTN maintained its dominance as the market leader in the industry with a subscriber base of 12,986,832 for the month of February, up from 12,968,610 as at the end of January.
The South African company thus holds 45.38 per cent of the total market share. Second placed Vodafone on the other hand had its subscriber base of 6,244,855 in January also shoot up dramatically to 6,413,376 in the month under review.
This represents 22.41 per cent of the total market share. Vodafone’s subscriber base increase in the period under review shows that the British company gained more during the month than its competitors. Tigo, owned by Millicom Ghana, also recorded a marginal subscriber base hike from 4,058,573 in January to 4,086,615.
By this, Tigo controls 14.28 per cent of total market share at the end of the month under review and positioned as the third biggest telecoms company in the country.
Airtel maintained its position as the fourth biggest telecoms company in the country with a subscriber base at the end of February also shooting up slightly from 3,508,411 in January to 3,537,316 subscribers in the month under review. This represents 12.36 per cent of the total market share.
GLO, which entered the market with a lot of vigour and expectation a couple of years ago, has persistently over the last 12 months, been losing market share. Its subscriber base for January reduced from 1,470,202, representing 5.17 per cent, to 1,437,580 (5.02 per cent) as at the end of February.
It is not clear which of its competitors gained from the loss but industry analysts have continuously questioned the operational and marketing strategy of the company saying the Glo style is not Ghanaian.
Since it launched its commercial service in the country, Nigerian owned Glo has only managed to beat Expresso to assume the fifth position on the market share score card.
Expresso on the hand ended the month under review with a market share of 0.54 per cent, as a result of a decrease in its subscriber base from 168,998 in January to 153,727.
Competition in the telecoms sector has been heightening on a daily basis as each of the players apart from Expresso, is seen using all strategies at their disposal to maintain their customers or gain more.
The growth in subscriber numbers seems to be clearly out-pacing the level of expansion of infrastructure by the players in the industry. As a result, there is a consistent recording of call drops, poor network reception among many other challenges on the various networks.
Much as the companies continue to advertise through the media, spending huge sums of money on infrastructure expansion to accommodate the growing subscriber base, there is very little progress or none at all and customers continue to be at the mercy of the operators.
Again, in their quest to survive the turbulent competition, the companies have engaged agents to sell their Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards in a more aggressive way.
Meanwhile, there are reports of many instances where the agents refuse to demand the identification cards of customers before registering their SIMs as per the law. The situation has thus defeated the purpose for which the law was promulgated to have all SIMs registered.
Way Forward
The sector ministry and the industry regulator seem to be looking on while customers are shortchanged by the telcos with impunity. In the past, the National Communications Authority (NCA) cracked the whip by infamously slapping fines on the operators which provided poor services to their customers.
However, in the last few months, there is nothing of the sort heard in the news and that seems to have given the players the edge to continuously take their customers for a ride.
A couple of weeks ago, the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication held a forum to get customers to seek answers from marketing executives of the various telecom companies.
Among the excuses provided by the telecom companies as to why customers receive poor network service were fibre cuts and the use of fake phones on the market but as to whether those were tangible enough, the next action rests with the regulator.
At the end of the day, the ministry and the regulator need to understand that it is not the number of subscribers in the country that will determine the success story in term of growth in the industry but the quality of service provided. As a result, they need to act fast to save the millions from being shortchanged in broad day light on a daily basis.
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