How much money South Africa’s cellphone networks make

South Africa’s mobile network operators generate around 74% more revenue than fixed-line service providers, and data services dominate other products, the State of the ICT Sector report reveals.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) latest State of the ICT Sector report has revealed how much revenue the country’s networks generate from their data and voice services.

South Africa’s mobile network providers generated R114 billion in 2021, with revenue from data services making up almost 50%.

On the other hand, fixed-line providers generated a total of R30 billion, of which data services made up 78%.

Mobile services revenue for the 12 months, ending 30 September each year

Icasa’s charts show that data revenue generated by mobile service providers is on an upward trend, having increased by around R13 billion since 2018.

Meanwhile, revenue generated from fixed-line data services has declined since 2019.

Fixed-line data services brought in approximately R27 billion in 2019, but this figure declined by close to 12.3% to R23.5 billion in 2021.

Broadband data services tend to be more popular for fixed-line service providers, bringing in R13 billion in 2021 — or 56.5% of total fixed-line data revenue.

Fixed-line data revenue, 12 months ending 30 September each year

Revenue generated by voice services on fixed-line products has declined steadily, with Icasa reporting a figure of almost R16 billion in 2015, which has since dropped to R6.5 billion.

This works out to an almost 60% decline over a period of six years.

Mobile voice services saw a significant decline between 2018 and 2019. Since then, mobile voice revenue has remained relatively stable.

The same cannot be said for fixed voice revenue. It has been in decline since 2015, albeit on a more gradual curve.

Icasa reported a figure of around R42 billion for 2015 and R36 billion in 2021 — a drop of about 14%.

Total fixed-line voice revenue, 12 months ending 30 September each year

One potential reason for the decline in fixed-line voice revenue is the rise of platforms like WhatsApp combined with reductions in data prices.

This has made it cost-effective to use mobile or fixed-line data for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls through services such as WhatsApp.

However, if this were the case, it would be logical to see mobile voice revenue following a similar trend. MyBroadband recently spoke to MTN and Vodacom, who said that WhatsApp calling wasn’t hurting their businesses.

Vodacom observed a slight decline in voice revenue, but increased data sales offset this. MTN told MyBroadband that it had seen a slight decrease in mobile voice traffic before the Covid-19 lockdowns.

However, since then, MTN has seen an increase in both traditional calls and voice over internet protocol calls.

Now read: Telkom froze an employee’s pension — why a judge allowed it

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How much money South Africa’s cellphone networks make