Mobile communication networks have been instrumental in enabling basic economic development at the community and individual level within the African continent. At the end of 2Q-2013, the total mobile phone subscriptions in Africa reached 863 million -- that's a growth of 9.3 percent year-on-year (YoY), which is more than other regions around the world.
Africa’s growth trajectory will continue up to 2018, with a CAGR of 6.6 percent, to reach 1.25 billion subscriptions.
"What’s more, due to the lower comparative 3G penetration of 13.8 percent in Africa at the end of 2013, we forecast that Africa 3G subscriptions will grow rapidly from 114 million in 2013 to 210 million by 2015," said Marina Lu, research associate at ABI Research.
While the vast majority of African countries are still in the process of extending and enhancing their 3G networks, some major African markets -- such as South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria -- have launched 4G networks, notching up 0.2 million LTE subscriptions by the end of Q2-2013.
Mobile voice revenues are still a key revenue generator for African mobile operators but the growing momentum behind mobile internet services is providing a wider stimulus for entrepreneurship, healthcare, and just as crucially, education.
By the end of 2018, Africa is expected to gain 51.2 million 4G LTE subscriptions, demonstrating a CAGR of 118 percent.
In terms of growth in African subscriptions by mobile network operator, Nigeria is proving to be the market to watch. MTN Nigeria is not only the fastest growing mobile operator in Africa but also the largest.
Remarkably, the operator increased its subscriber base by 10 million YoY, to reach 53 million. This growth in adoptions is a result of significant tariff reductions made in Q3-2012 that made it substantially more affordable for low income end-users to take up mobile phone services.
The second and the third fastest growing mobile network operators in Africa were also based in Nigeria: Zain Nigeria, 5.4 million YoY; and EMTS with subscription growth of 2.9 million.