Data Underpins Robust Vodacom Full Year

Strong demand for data services, underpinned by an aggressive investment in 3G and 4G/LTE network infrastructure, has led to a strong performance by Vodacom in the financial year ended 31 March 2016, results published on Monday showed.

Headline earnings per share rose by a fairly muted 2.7% to R8.83, but this number was negatively impacted by re-measurement of foreign currency-denominated inter-group loans and once-off black economic empowerment charges.

Despite the weak economy in the group’s biggest market, South Africa, service revenue there increased by 4,9% to R49,3bn, firmly putting the pressures caused by reductions in wholesale inter-network call rates (also known as mobile termination rates) behind it.

Total revenue climbed by 5,2% to R62,3bn, underpinned by a 6,2% increase in equipment revenue, with 10,5m devices sold to South Africans during the year, of which 61,6% were smart devices.

Vodacom South Africa added 2,1m customers, 6.4% up on the prior year’s total. Average revenue per user (ARPU) remained fairly static — a not insignificant achievement in a competitive market.

“The ARPU trend improved largely as a result of lower declines in voice revenue as customers opted into more attractively priced ‘Just 4 You’ offers, coupled with the continued increase in data revenue as customers trade up their devices to either 3G or 4G,” Vodacom said.

“Prepaid bundle purchases increased to over a billion. The success of these offers, as well as the migration to better value price plans, has resulted in improving trends on voice revenue,” it added.

Active prepaid customers increased by 7.6% to 29,3m. Some 85% of contract customers are now on new price plans, with contract in-bundle spend increasing to 71.3% from 69.3% in the 2015 financial year. Active contract customers were flat at 4,9m, while contract churn fell from 9.2% a year ago to 8.5%. Contract Arpu rose by 4.5% to R397.
But it was in data services that Vodacom enjoyed the most revenue uplift.

Data revenue in South Africa increased by 27.7% to R17.3billion on the back of strong data traffic growth of 46.8%. This was underpinned by improved access to more affordable devices — active smart devices on the network increased by 22.8% to 14,1m, driven mainly by the sale of low-cost Vodacom-branded devices, which accounted for 25,7% (2015: 16,8%) of total device sales.

Another factor helping data sales was increased data coverage, with the number of active data users on the network up by 12.7% to 18,7m customers. “Compelling” data offers through the prepaid “Just 4 You” tariff plan led to growth in data bundle sales of 85.9%, with the average usage increasing by almost 50% to 350MB/user.
Vodacom South Africa now claims to offer 99% 3G population coverage, and 58% for 4G/LTE, from 35% in the 2015 financial year. It now has more than 6,000 4G sites across the country.

Service revenue for Vodacom’s international operations, meanwhile, increased by 16.2% (9.6% in constant currency). Voice revenue climbed by 14% and data revenue by 31.9% on the back of R4.1billion of investment in networks.

Active international customers decreased 8.1% to 27,1m, largely due to user registration requirements in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
Vodacom has declared a final dividend per share of R4/share, taking the total dividend for the year to R7.95/share.
Source: Techcentral

Tigo Tanzania Expands 4G Services to 4 Towns

Tigo Tanzania announced its LTE technology will soon be available in Tabora, Musoma, Bukoba, Kigoma and Shinyanga. The company first launched the service in Dar es Salaam in early 2015 before expanding to Arusha, Tanga, Dodoma, Morogoro, Moshi and Mwanza. The new technology is about five times faster than the 3G services widely used in Tanzania. In 2016, Tigo will be investing over USD 75 million on the network expansion and quality improvement.
Source: Telecompaper

Ericsson And MTN Bring LTE Experience to Ghana

Ericsson has been selected by MTN Ghana for the deployment of a new LTE network in the Greater Accra region. The deployment will enable MTN to offer its 16 million subscribers high-quality mobile broadband experiences based on HSPA and LTE technologies.

Under the agreement, Ericsson will install its multi-standard radio solution which supports GSM/EDGE, WCDMA/HSPA, and LTE. The solution supports cost-effective deployment, along with capacity and functionality evolution.

Ericsson offers an advanced mixed-mode (2G/3G/LTE) solution that offers an efficient means for operators to migrate their networks to LTE. Ericsson’s solutions enable operators to support existing 2G and 3G traffic with current resources, thereby freeing up spectrum to provide high-speed LTE data services and positioning operators to capitalize on mobile data growth.

According to the Sub-Saharan Africa appendix of the Ericsson Mobility Report, WCDMA/HSPA combined with LTE will account for almost 80 percent of subscriptions in the region by the end of 2021. In addition, data usage will grow 15 times from current levels, with LTE subscriptions growing 28 times.

Ebenezer Twum Asante, CEO of MTN Ghana, said: “MTN Ghana is happy to roll out its LTE services. Our customers are looking for world-class data access that is capable of meeting all their unique connectivity requirements and we are excited at the opportunity to provide them this latest technology.”

Ignacio Gelso, Country Manager, Ericsson Ghana, also said: “As a global LTE leader, we are excited by the opportunities for inclusion and empowerment that connectivity brings to Africa and Ghana. There is a growing recognition among operators of the need to deploy 4G/LTE to keep their mobile broadband offerings competitive. Ericsson’s technology leadership makes us a trusted transformation partner for operators exploring the possibilities of the Networked Society.”

Ericsson is present today in all high traffic LTE markets including the US, Japan, and South Korea, and is ranked first for handling the most global LTE traffic. In addition, forty percent of the world's total mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks. More than 250 LTE RAN and Evolved Packet Core networks have been delivered by Ericsson worldwide, of which 190 are live commercially.
Source: Biztechafrica.

Mobile Operators Call For EU Action on Wholesale Roaming

A group of smaller mobile operators and MVNOs have called on the EU to work faster on reducing wholesale roaming prices if it wants to achieve the goal of 'roam like home' across the union by June 2017.

The roaming coalition, which includes operators such as ‘3’, ‘Free and Play’ as well as industry group ‘MVNO Europe’ covering together nearly 70 million customers, welcomed the cut from 30 April of retail roaming prices. However, they see a need for a sharp reduction in the current wholesale roaming price caps in order to allow smaller operators to compete. In particular, wholesale data roaming prices need to come down from the current "unjustifiably" high level above domestic wholesale rates in many countries.

The group said the European Commission will need to come up with a legislative proposal by June if it's to complete the process of obtaining approval from Parliament and the Council by the current deadline of 15 June 2017 for an end to all roaming surcharges. Without any further steep reduction in wholesale roaming price caps, a large number of mobile operators may decide or be forced to impose restrictions on users when roaming abroad through complex and unfriendly contractual clauses, the operators warned.

The European Commission has already held a public consultation on wholesale roaming and has said it aims to come with a proposal by June. The differences in roaming versus domestic rates and between EU countries was flagged already in 2014 by EU regulator Berec, before the latest roaming regulation was adopted. The regulator had warned that without further intervention in the wholesale market, 'roam like home' may not prove tenable. 

Source: Telecompaper