MTN gives rivals a run for their money

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

South Africa's second cellphone network, MTN, managed to hold its 36percent share of the local market in the face of tough competition thanks to number portability and Virgin's alliance with Cell C.

In its results for the year ended Decem-ber 31, reported yesterday, MTN said that it grew its South African subscriber numbers 22percent to 12,5million. MTN's growth is nearly three times Vodacom's. The company recently re-ported that it grew its local subscriber base 7,8 percent to 21,8million at the end of last year.

Vodacom is still the leader in the home market, but MTN now operates in 21 countries while Telkom's mobile subsidiary has only expanded into six countries. MTN's overall subscribers rocketed 73percent to more than 40million versus Vodacom's total of 28,2million.

A key measure for how cellphone networks are performing is average revenue per user (ARPU). MTN beat Vodacom in the prepaid market, averaging R94 in December against Vodacom's R64. But Vodacom's postpaid (customers who sign up for monthly contracts) spend more time on the phone, averaging R524 against MTN's R487.

MTN reported a 49percent revenue growth to R52billion for the year. The company is paying its shareholders a 90c dividend.

MTN's South Afri-can network grew by 263 new base trans-ceiver stations, bringing the total to 4932. Its network is experiencing significantly higher SMS traffic and data volumes.