afrol News, 17 November - Africa this year crossed the 500 million active mobile subscriptions mark. By now, every second person of Africa's 1,033 million inhabitants can be reached by phone, making Africa a sizable market.
These numbers were presented by Thecla Mbongue, a Johannesburg-based senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. According to the latest data available to Ms Mbongue, the number of active mobile subscriptions in Africa reached 506 million at end-September 2010.
Africa now accounts for 10 percent of the world's mobile subscriptions and remains one of the world's fastest-growing regions - with the subscription numbers increasing 18 percent over the year to September, accord to Ms Mbongue.
This continues fast growth was a result of "the still low mobile penetration rate on the continent as well as demand for new services, such as mobile Internet access, that increase the need for telecoms connectivity."
Although the rate of growth in mobile subscriptions in Africa now would slow as markets mature, "the continent continues to offer great opportunities for investors in the voice segment in under-penetrated markets and also in the non-voice segments with mobile broadband and mobile-money services taking off," according to the analyst.
"By 2015, there will be 265 million mobile broadband subscriptions in Africa, a huge increase from the current figure of about 12 million, and accounting for 31.5 percent of the total of 842 million mobile subscriptions that the continent will have in five years' time," according to forecasts by Informa. "There will be almost 360 million users of mobile-money services on the continent by 2014," Ms Mbongue adds.
The mobile revolution that has swept through Africa had made mobile telephony widely available, "but there are still substantial under-served markets - in rural areas the rate of mobile penetration is typically below 10 percent, for example," she adds, pointing out that these were still markets to conquer for investors.
anding of a series of new submarine cables on both the East and West coasts of Africa over the past 18 months had given the continent a good level of international connectivity for the first time, and had greatly expanded the opportunities for data services.
However, terrestrial backhaul threatened to become the next bottle-neck, Ms Mbongue warned, and this "must be extended if the benefits of the new connectivity are to be made widely available and in particular reach rural communities and countries in the interior of the continent," she advised.
The next big market is the provision of Internet services in Africa. The rate of household broadband penetration in Africa was just 2.5 percent in the beginning of 2010, "so African broadband has a long way to go if it is to emulate the mobile revolution that has already swept through much of the continent," Ms Mbongue holds.
According to data analysed by Informa, Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is also its largest mobile market, accounting for 16 percent of the continent's mobile subscriptions.
Egypt and South Africa are the second and third largest mobile markets on the continent. Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania and Zimbabwe together accounted for 48 percent of the 54 million net additions to Africa's mobile subscription market over the nine months to September.
Over the coming five years, Informa expects the strongest growth rates in mobile subscriptions to be recorded mainly in East and Central African markets, with Ethiopia, Congo Kinshasa (DRC), Eritrea and Madagascar forecast to see mobile subscription numbers increase by more than 100 percent by 2015.
Africa's first mobile network was launched in Tunisia in 1985, so 2010 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of mobile telephony on the continent.
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