Botswana sees decline in mobile subscriptions

The Botswana mobile landscape has seen a 1.4% decline in active mobile subscriptions to 3,181,591 in March 2018 from 3,226,389 in March 2017. This according to the latest BOCRA ICT Market Review released end of 2018. Botswana has experienced a remarkable growth of more than 100% in mobile telephony subscriptions since 2009 when BTC introduced mobile telephony services. Previous studies have concluded that Botswana market was experiencing a unique form of competition where consumers own multiple SIM-cards belonging to different service providers. “This practice was driven by the need to take advantage of product and price offerings availed by the various service providers.” 

The above practice also ensures that consumers have access to other networks by swopping SIMcards in areas of the country where their network of choice is not available or limited. The number of active mobile subscriptions decreased from 3,226,389 in March 2017 to 3,181,591 in March 2018 representing a decline of about 1.4% compared to the 6.8% decline recorded between 2016 and 2017. Mobile Teledensity declined from 159% in March 2017 to 157% as at March 2018. 

The report, which is in the hands of biztechafrica indicates that the number of mobile subscriptions grew by 85% from 1,874,101 in March 2009 to 3,460,331 in March 2016. Uptake of subscriptions then declined by 7% in March 2017 and further declined in March 2018.

“The decrease in active mobile subscriptions in the review period was attributed mainly to a high churn rate experienced during the festive season of 2017 by the three operators which had not been fully recovered until March 2018. The market share measured by the number of active mobile subscriptions is as follows; Mascom Wireless continues to be the leader at 53% followed by Orange at 31% and BTC Mobile at 16%. In the previous year, Mascom had market share of 55% followed by Orange with 30% and lastly BTC Mobile with 15%.” 

“PTOs explain the decline as natural churn as market reaches maturity. It is expected that uptake of subscriptions would lessen in future, unless there is a strategic intervention by the industry aimed at increasing demand for new subscriptions. Such interventions may involve introduction of totally new and innovative products that address an unserved market need.”

The Botswana telecommunications market is made up of three Public Telecommunications Operators (PTOs) namely; Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC), Mascom Wireless Botswana (Pty) Ltd (Mascom) and Orange Botswana (Pty) Ltd (Orange). Another major player is the Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet) which was licensed in 2013 to provide only wholesale services to other licensed service providers. 

Along with the major players are smaller players, commonly called Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which provide value added services and internet on a smaller scale than PTOs. The other category is that of Private Telecommunications Network Licence (PTNL) providers. Though they exist in the market, they do not play a significant role since they were only licensed to build private networks for internal business use. All the PTOs hold licences that allow them to offer mobile and fixed telephony services and products. Mascom and Orange have been offering predominantly mobile telephony services including mobile internet and value add services while BTCL provides both the fixed and mobile services. 

According to the report, “Mascom nevertheless has been approved to provide fixed telephony services but has not yet launched the service in this reporting period. In September 2015, BOCRA implemented a new and converged licensing framework to create a more conducive environment for ICT development. The framework has two major categories, that is, Network Facilities Provider (NFP) Licence and the Services and Applications Provider (SAP) Licence.” 

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