Vodacom, which is jointly owned by fixed-line operator Telkom and world’s largest telecoms firm Vodafone, is to change the way it counts subscribers in South Africa. The new method could result in as many as 3,5m SIM cards being deleted by the end of the year.
The effect on revenue will be “immaterial” and the move will provide a more accurate reflection of active users on the network. The average revenue per user (Arpu) number will be boosted as a result.
In a statement, Vodacom said that a “material number of SIM cards” count calls forwarded to voicemail as their only revenue-generating activity.
“The customer never retrieves most such messages. It is estimated that these SIM cards have an ARPU of less that R1 per month, which is below the cost of maintaining such SIM cards on the network. It is therefore not justifiable to keep such SIM cards on the network,” says Vodacom.
Until mid-June, says Vodacom, “a call forwarded to voicemail was regarded as a revenue-generating activity, and SIM cards [used for this purpose are] classified as active customers.”
“Such SIM cards would be disconnected from the network after being inactive for 215 consecutive days [around seven months].”
Vodacom will count the retrieval of a voice message by a customer – not the call forwarded to voicemail – as a revenue-generating activity.
Going strong, especially in SA
Vodacom’s subscriber base grew by 7,3% (or 3,5m subscribers) to 25,2m over the three months to June – the first quarter in the company’s financial year.
Besides being the biggest operator in South Africa, Vodacom also has operations in Tanzania (where subscribers grew by 9,5% to 2,3m), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (up 12,5% to 1,8m), Lesotho (up 7,3% to 221 000) and Mozambique (up 19,2% to 584 000).
The South African operation dominates the numbers. Vodacom continues to rule the roost in South Africa, with 20,4m subscribers on its network, representing a 6,4% increase over the three-month period.
Collectively, the other operations make up 19,3% of the total customer base.
The most recent subscribers for rival MTN show the company had 24,2m subscribers on its networks.
Subsequent to that, though, MTN has bought pan-African operation Investcom, which counts 4,9m subscribers on its networks in nine countries.
MTN is in the process of rolling out a network in Iran (it has a 49% stake in Irancell, that country’s second network), which is scheduled to go live in August. Also, Investcom launched a GSM (second-generation) network in Afghanistan yesterday, known as Areeba Afghanistan.