Mobile Telephony Growth pace slows down in Botswana


The mobile telephony market continues to grow albeit at a slightly slower pace due to the global economic recession. Figures availed by the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) show that the sector experienced a 26 percent growth between March 2008 and March 2009 compared to 29 percent in the previous period. The slower rate of growth is despite the entrance of the new player in the market, be Mobile.

According to the BTA Annual Report for 2009, the mobile telephony market grew from 1.48 million in March 2008 to 1.87 million in March this year. "The subscribers included those of the new entrant, be Mobile, which started operations in May 2008," the report says.

"However, teledensity reached 105 percent in March 2009 based on population estimates of 1,776, 494 compared with 85 percent recorded the previous year. The high teledensity is attributable to a relatively large number of customers with more than one SIM card."

Prepaid subscribers continue to dominate the mobile market, accounting for 98 percent of the market as at March 2009, while post-paid subscribers held only 2 percent.

On the other hand, fixed telephony continued to grow steadily, registering a slight increase of 1.35 percent in the period under review as the total number of subscribers increased from 142, 282 as at March 2008 to 144,95 as at March 2009. In terms of revenue, the mobile telephony market grew from around P1.4 billion recorded the last financial year to P1.8 billion as at the end of December 2008. Net profits for the mobile market have increased significantly, going from P433 million as at December 2007 to P568 million as at December 2008.

Mobile operators continued to invest in the industry as shown by the increase in asset value, going from P1.1billion in December 2007 to P 1.7 billion in December 2008.

However, the figures exclude BTC's be Mobile since its audited figures were not available at the time of reporting.

On the financial performance of fixed line telephony, the country's fixed line monopoly the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation's (BTC) total assets increased to P1.634 billion as at March 2008 from P1.601 billion recorded for the same period last year.The report says BTA's revenue increased to P71.3 million from P61.1million reported last year. This is attributed to an increase in turnover-related fees and increased radio licence fees from Public Telecommunications Operators (PTOs), mainly as a result of licensing of additional spectrum for 3G and Wimax.Interest income increased from P4.09 million to P5.61 million while operating expenses increased by 4 percent to P56.5 million compared to P54.3 million in the previous year. The slight increase was due to decapitalisation of the Automated Spectrum Monitoring System (ASMS) equipment as a result of a refund of P5.7 million received from Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) for witholding tax paid for the supply of ASMS equipment.

Meanwhile, a recently conducted market study into the telecommunications and ICT sector in Botswana has revealed that 57 percent of the population owns a mobile phone and that this is projected to rise to 61 percent by 2014 with increases in coverage, wealth and changes in social norms. The 61 percent mobile population penetration would translate into 107 percent SIM card penetration once dual-SIMs is factored in.

The study also shows that the Botswana Internet market is still in its infancy, with low Internet penetration and extremely low broadband penetration due to high computer prices, high cost of services, low IT literacy, lack of local Internet content, power supply problems and perceived low quality service.

The number of wireless broadband subscribers using ISPs operating on unlicensed spectrum band has also increased. The study established that the international data gateway market in Botswana is not yet competitive. The ADSL access, leased lines and information data markets potentially need price regulation.