Africa is expected to cross 1 billion mobile subscriptions in the fourth quarter of 2016, reaching 1.02 billion by year-end, according to market research firm Ovum. Ovum also forecasts that the total number of mobile subscriptions on the continent will rise to 1.33 billion at the end of 2021.
However, growth in new mobile subscriptions is slowing, said Ovum. The average rate of mobile penetration in Africa was 79% at the end of June. And mobile voice revenue on the continent is set to decline over the five years to 2021.Ovum projects that data connections, as well as data and digital service revenue, will drive the next phase of growth in Africa’s telecoms market. The take-up of mobile broadband will rise strongly, as operators continue to roll out 3G and 4G LTE networks and as smartphones become increasingly affordable.
There will be 1 billion mobile broadband connections in Africa in 2021, including 157.4 million 4G LTE connections. Additionally, the number of smartphone connections on the continent will reach 929.9 million at the end of 2021. And non-SMS mobile data revenue in Africa will rise from US$6.40 billion in 2015 to US$27.56 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 27.6%.
The number of fixed broadband connections in Africa is also expected to increase significantly over the coming years, albeit from a very low base. It will rise from 13.78 million at the end of 2016 to 19.97 million at the end of 2021. The number of fiber and fixed LTE connections will increase sharply over the next five years, but DSL will remain the dominant fixed broadband technology on the continent, accounting for 70.7% of African fixed broadband connections in 2021.