Rwanda: Mobile penetration rate drops as RURA declines to trim its forecasts


Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) insists that mobile phone users in the country will hit six million next year even as latest statics depict a decline in mobile penetration rate.

According to the most recent statistics from RURA, the mobile penetration rate was 36.3 per cent in March this year but slid to 34.4 per cent in April before rising slightly to 36 per cent in May.

The decline in mobile penetration rate, according to industry experts, is one of the effects of RURA's decision to revoke Rwandatel's mobile license.

The RURA report indicates the combined active subscribers dropped by 46,824 users from 3,777,090 million in March to 3,730,226 users in May with April recording only 3,589,057 users.

MTN remains the leading operator with 2,638,838 subscribers in March, 2,727,135 in April and 2,764,201 in May compared to Tigo's 742,861 subscribers in March, 861,922 in April and 966,065 by end of May.

Despite the negative trend, RURA says it will not scale-down its ambitious target, saying they are still firm on to attaining their target.

The regulator's Director General, Regis Gatarayiha, told Business Time that there was a drop after Rwandatel's mobile license was cancelled in March.

"A month later, subscribers migrated to either operator (TIGO or MTN). We assume the missing figures were holding more than one SIM card of different operators then after they decided to stick to one operator," he explained.

Gatarayiha noted the ambitious six million is difficult to meet with two operators but he remains upbeat about the heightened competition.

"With three telecoms, we had anticipated each to attain two million users by 2012," he added.

In January, the country had recorded a healthy growth in cell phone users with the country's three telecom operators adding some 1.2 million subscribers only in 2010.

Mobile subscribers had clocked 3.6 million by January from 2.4 million in January 2010.

Tigo Rwanda's Marketing Manager, Nina-Claudia Ndabaneze attributed the TIGO's growth to a combination of coverage expansion and product rollout all over the country, including new service centres leading to new user on its network.

RURA figures indicate that MTN's subscriber base has only increased by 4.7 percent since March.

In last year's budget, the government removed Value Added Tax (VAT) on mobile handsets and import duty on SIM cards to increase penetration of telecommunication services to the lower segments of the population. This decision aimed at boosting the country's mobile penetration rate.