Africa lags smartphone market

Smartphone users, making up only 13% of the world’ s mobile users, are generating two-thirds of the world’ s mobile traffic. This data traffic is expected to increase by 700% on average per user over the next five years.

This is according to new research by Informa Telecoms & Media.

Informa Telecoms & Media estimates that is average traffic per smartphone user currently 85MB per month. The iPhone is the highest-traffic-generating device followed by Android devices.

The highest smartphone traffic comes from South Korea and Japan, with respective values of 271MB/month and 199MB/month expected in 2010, which is 2-3 times higher than the global average.

In contrast, the reseaerchers said, smartphones remain a status symbol for the majority of users in emerging markets. There, cellphone users who still use cellular networks largely for voice and SMS rather than to access mobile data services.

As a result, average traffic per user in these regions is not expected to exceed 43MB/Month in 2010 and could be as low as 13MB/month in some African countries.

The low penetration of mobile broadband networks, the lack of compelling local content and the proliferation of prepaid subscribers are among the reasons why smartphone ATPU in emerging markets will lag behind this in developed regions.

Informa expects the number of smartphone users to reach almost 1.4 billion by the end of 2015, which will represent about 30% of total mobile subscribers worldwide. While in some markets, such as Japan, Western Europe and North America, more than 70% of all mobile subscribers will be using smartphones by the end of 2015, some emerging markets, including Africa, India and some countries in Latin America, will have less than 15% by that time.

Currently, Africa and India have the lowest smartphone penetration levels, with penetration in Africa only at 5.1%.  

On the question of cellphone penetration in general, Nick Jotischky, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, said in a recent statement: SIM penetration still remains under 20% in a few parts of the continent, but even where penetration reaches the 50% mark, in rural areas penetration is in most cases below 10%. This represents a problem when two thirds of the continent's population resides in rural Africa.

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