By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
The number of Ghanaians using mobile phones is expected to reach 15 million by the end of 2009, the fourth quarter report on Ghana’s mobile phone market by London headquartered Business Monitor International (BMI) has said.
The report which was released last week indicated that the country’s mobile penetration is expected to “reach 60% penetration before the end of 2009. This will mean that it ends the year with close to 15 million mobile subscribers, which indicates a 27% expansion of the subscriber base during 2009. This is down from 57% in 2008, but this is very much a natural evolution thanks to a gradually maturing mobile market.”
It was however unhappy with the level of revenue earnings of some of the providers. The report said more worrying are Ghana’s (Average Revenue Per Users) ARPUs, which took something of a dive in the first quarter of 2009. This is a pattern that has been seen in many markets across Africa, exemplified by pan-African operator MTN’s results. ARPUs is how much the mobile phone companies make per each subscriber per month.
The report said MTN’s abridged results released during the period show that in every single one of the markets it operates in, ARPUs have gone down, some of them really dramatically.
According to the report a certain amount of this decrease is down to devalued currencies against the dollar, and the rest is due to decreased spending on the home market. In Ghana’s case, MTN’s blended ARPU fell from US$12 in fourth quarter 2008 to US$8 in first quarter 2009. This 31% drop in US dollar terms, however, was backed up by a 15% drop in local currency terms, so there is evidence that mobile spending did noticeably drop as people started to feel the effects of economic concerns.
It is however hard to determine which statistics to believe as there are different figures being published on Ghana’s mobile penetration.
A recent report carried by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) citing documents in its possession say they reveal disparities in the number of active mobile phone subscriptions in the country.
It said according to the National Communications Authority (NCA), its first quarter report for 2009, placed wireless penetration at 55% of the 24 million Ghanaian mobile telephony market.
The GNA also pointed to information on Millicom Ghana’ website, www.millicom.com, which says that wireless penetration in Ghana was 47%, citing interconnectivity activities between operators as its “authentic” source of information. Millicom Ghana is the operator of Tigo.
Other commentators believe that, the inefficient manner in which the NCA computes these figures is the source of the disparities. Despite the conflicting figures however, there is evidence that the mobile phone industry in Ghana is growing. With the eminent presence of Globacom in the country, there is optimism that the mobile market in Ghana would become even more exciting.