Cellphone firms’ battle for market share intensifies

Thursday August 17 2017

Tigo acting managing director Simon Karikari

Tigo acting managing director Simon Karikari speaks at a past event.  PHOTO | FILE 

Dar es Salaam. Competition in the telecommunication sector was largely slanted towards mobile money once again during the second quarter of 2017 amid a vigilant growth of voice subscriptions, a new study shows.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Quarterly Communications Statistics Report for the second quarter of 2017 shows that the sector registered only 501,819 new subscriber identification module (Sim) cards during the second quarter.

That brought the total number of voice subscribers to 40,358,031 slightly above 39,856,212 registered at the end of March 2017.

However, five of the seven operators also registered a total of 1,059,163 million new mobile money clients during the same period in what analysts believe is a sign that market sentiments were changing.

Apparently, emphasis on mobile money is based on reports that over Sh50 trillion is currently being transacted across mobile money platforms in a year.

The Bank of Tanzania said in its May 2017 Monthly Economic Review that between July 2016 and April 2017, a total of 1.445 billion transactions - valued at Sh49.997 trillion were transacted in mobile money transfer across the country.


The money was 13.9 per cent more than Sh43.86 trillion that were transacted via 1.218 billion transactions during the similar period of the preceding year


Tigo, Airtel, Halotel and TTCL gained more voice subscribers during the period under review to send Vodacom, Smart and Zantel on the losing end.

Tigo gained 132,826 new Sim cards during the second half of 2017 to record a total of 11.37 million subscribers with the management attributing the performance to its ongoing network expansion and modernisation.

“We have seen a steady growth in voice subscribers mainly attributed to the $75 million investment in expansion and modernization of our network coverage,” acting managing director, Mr Simon Karikari said in a statement.

He said his company’s growth is also anchored on the attractiveness of its voice and data bundles to clients.

“Tigo continues to offer attractive data and voice bundles like Halichachi & Jaza Ujazwe which respond to customers’ needs.  We have also invested in expansion of our sales and distribution network including increasing the number of Tigo Pesa agents and merchants to ensure our products and services are available across the country,” he said. 

There was no immediate reaction from Halotel but the company’s managing director, Le Van Dai told The Citizen in June that its growth in two years is anchored in our strategy of focusing on poor rural communities.

Mobile Money

Airtel Tanzania - which registered 132,826 new Sim cards during the second half to bring the number number of its subscribers to 10.349 million - also stole the show on the mobile money front.

The company – which remained on position three in terms of voice subscriptions behind Vodacom and Tigo – registered a total of 1,038,193 new Airtel Money subscribers during the second half.

This means that the company accounted for 98 per cent of all the new mobile money clients during the period registered with Airtel Tanzania.

According to the company’s regulatory and communication director, Ms Beatrice Singano – Mallya, the growth was mainly a result of its diversified financial services which are offered through the Airtel Money platform in the form of ‘Timiza Loans’.

Launched in 2014, Airtel’s Timiza service offers instant unsecured loans to customers and Airtel Money agents across the country. 

With 1.038 million additions, Airtel Tanzania now has a total of 5.9 million Airtel Money subscribers behind 7.966 million and 6.07 million for Vodacom’s M-Pesa and Tigo Pesa.

Vodacom Tanzania Public Limited Company – which listed on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) on Tuesday this week after successfully raising Sh476 billion in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) – surpassed its profit projections for the year ending March 31, 2017, largely due a swell in revenues from its mobile phone money platform, (M-Pesa) proceedings.

It registered a net profit of Sh47.554 billion during the year under review, against a projection of Sh47.28 billion as presented in its Prospectus.

Revenue from M-Pesa grew by a cool 11.2 per cent to reach Sh249.6 billion during the year ending March 31, 2017 from Sh224.394 billion during the year ending March 31, 2016.

Mobile phone companies are also moving their competition to data as TCRA figures show that the number of internet users – or at least internet-connected devices – has risen from 5.3 million in 2011 to 19.86 million in 2016.

With the internet penetration rate jumping from 12 per cent to 34 and 40 per cent in 2011, 2015 and 2016 respectively, telecommunication firms are now investing much of their resources in data.

Five of the seven telecommunication companies are currently promoting their 4th Generation Long Term Evolution (4G-LTE) internet in the market as they seek to capitalise on speed to net more subscribers and remain relevant.