With shiny new 4G smartphones clamoring for attention, it’s easy to forget about the humble talk-plus-text mobile phone. But the device continues to dominate in emerging markets, such as Africa, where access to third generation cellular — let alone 4G — is not even close to being widespread. ABI Research says GSM (2G) mobile subscriptions now account for 62.7 percent of mobile subscriptions in Africa, while 3G, in both CDMA2000 and WCDMA flavors, only represents 11 percent of the overall market. Just over a quarter (27 percent) of subscriptions rely on 2.5G access technologies for mobile data.
In its latest quarterly update for the region, the analyst says it expects mobile phone subscriber penetration levels to pass 80 percent in the first quarter of next year. In Q3 this year, Africa’s 54 countries and 1.08 billion people had accumulated 821 million mobile subscribers, according to ABI, up 16.9 percent year-on-year — to 76.4 percent. In Q1 2013 it predicts penetration levels will “eclipse” 80 percent — going on to note that, since many mobile users in the region maintain more than one active prepaid subscription “to minimize interconnection charges”, there is scope for (yet) more growth.
ABI adds that it expects the cellular market in Africa to grow to 1.12 billion subscribers by 2017 — contributing 13.9 percent to take the global cellular market to 8.11 billion.
The mobile subscription growth rate in Africa is easily outstripping mature mobile markets elsewhere in the world. ”While Western Europe languishes with barely positive overall growth quarter-on-quarter, Africa managed to generate 4.2 percent growth in the same period,” noted Marina Lu, research associate, ABI Research, in a statement.
Read more: Natasha Lomas, Tech Crunch