MTN Group, a leading emerging market mobile operator, reported a ‘satisfactory performance’ in the first quarter of 2014, with subscriber growth of 1.1% quarter-on-quarter pushing the group’s total to 210.065 million in 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East by the start of April. Data revenues as a proportion of total revenue continue to bolster the carrier’s performance, it said, increasing 43.3% year-on-year and contributing 17.0% of total revenue, while the encouraging progress of its ‘Mobile Money’ service saw total registered users top 16.6 million at the end of the period under review. The operator’s MTN South Africa unit ‘continued to focus on regaining relevance in the pre-paid segment and maintaining its post-paid market share’, despite which, the subsidiary’s subscriber base dipped a net 824,768 to 24.875 million customers at 31 March, marginally below the 24.950 million recorded at end-March 2013. MTN said the fall is mainly due to the disconnection of 973,064 subscribers who had been showing activity but not generating revenue as per its 90-day ‘active user’ definition. Data subscribers increased to 14.5 million by 1Q14, largely due to competitive data packages and the launch of the cellco’s low-cost ‘Steppa’ smartphone. Blended ARPU decreased by 11.3% to ZAR100.47 (USD9.50) per month. Further, MTN South Africa says it remains committed to seeking a permanent resolution to the recent mobile termination rate (MTR) glide path and asymmetry regulations announced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which came into effect on 1 April for a period of six months.
Meanwhile, the group’s MTN Nigeria unit delivered a satisfactory performance during the three months under review, and increased its subscriber base despite the one-month ban on the sale of SIMs imposed by the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for three of the four GSM operators active in the market. MTN Nigeria had a total of 57.2224 million subscribers at 31 March, up 0.8% from 56.766 million three months earlier and 51.295 million at the end of 1Q13. In its filing, MTN Group said that: ‘Encouragingly we have seen strong subscriber growth post the lifting of the ban’. MTN’s Nigerian unit has also worked hard to improve its network quality and capacity, with 483 2G and 597 3G sites added during the January-March quarter. Partly as a result, MTN Nigeria reported strong growth in 3G enabled devices on the network, which increased to 7.1 million in the quarter.
The group’s ‘Large opco cluster’, which includes operations in Iran, Ghana, Syria, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Uganda and Sudan, ended March with a total of 95.540 million users, up 2.2% q-o-q and up from 89.318 million subscribers at 31 March 2013. Finally, the ‘Small opco cluster’ (comprising units in Yemen, Afghanistan, Benin, Congo [Republic], Zambia, Guinea (Conakry), Rwanda, Cyprus, Liberia, Botswana, Guinea-Bissau, Swaziland and South Sudan) registered 32.426 million connections, up from 31.882 million at the start of the year and 29.825 million at end-March 2013.