Africa has passed Western Europe in the number of mobile connections during the final quarter of 2010, Wireless Intelligence reported on Thursday. It comes as the telecom market on the continent continues to show marked improvement in both services and infrastructure, especially in North Africa.
The new report said that African mobile connections reached 547.5 million during the final three months of 2010, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year. In comparison, Western Europe reported 523.6 million connections, or an increase of less than one percent from 2009.
Also, ARPU declined at a similar rate across both continents, down three percent in Europe and 3.29 percent in Africa. According to the report, much of that slide was triggered by price wars in Kenya, Tanzania and Egypt.
“In Kenya, Airtel started a price war in August last year by slashing voice call rates by 50 percent,” Wireless Intelligence stated in the report. The price war in Kenya has subsided somewhat in recent weeks, but continues to hamper the overall telecom market, the research company said.
The firm added that in Tanzania, Zantel, a subsidiary of United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat, in February lobbied local regulator Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to help end the ongoing price war. It helped introduce price guidelines to prevent continued price drops that would affect overall business.
“Such guidelines safeguard consumers from unscrupulous operators who temporarily reduce tariffs to lure them from their current operator,” a report published in The Citizen said.
It is unclear what exactly the overtaking of Europe will have on African markets, but analysts believe it will help spur an increase in investment flowing into the continent over the next few years.
By Jonathan Terry