Fixed lines in South Africa – Broadband yes, calling no

ICASA has released its “state of the ICT sector” report for 2019, detailing where the market stands as of 30 September 2018.

The report is based on feedback from service providers which it has jurisdiction over, including mobile networks such as MTN and Vodacom.

“A total of 96 Electronic Communication Services and Electronic Communication Network Services licensees responses were received, 35 responses were from television and radio broadcasters, and 3 responses were received from postal service licensees,” said ICASA.

It added, however, that the data in the reprot is “self-reported by licensees, which therefore requires a more rigorous data-validation process”.

Fixed lines

As part of the report, ICASA detailed the state of fixed lines in South Africa.

Fixed lines from Telkom were once the primary channel through which South Africans called one another and connected to the Internet.

The proliferation of smartphones and VoIP services, in combination with poor service levels from Telkom, saw South Africans drop their analogue copper lines in droves, however.

The effect of this is seen in the sharp decline in fixed-line revenue in the country over the past four years – detailed in the graph below.

Fixed-line revenue has dropped from R15.8 billion in 2015 to R11.9 billion in 2018.



The decline is further evidenced by the sharp drop in fixed-line traffic – in terms of calling minutes – since 2015.

According to the report, total minutes over fixed lines declined from over 7.3 billion to 5.2 billion.


The drop in fixed-line voice usage has coincided with a sharp increase in smartphone penetration in South Africa over the past three years.

The report stated that smartphone penetration rates went from 43.5% in 2016 to 81.7% in 2018.

This does not necessarily mean that users have shifted from calling from a fixed line to calling from a smartphone, however, as texting on apps like WhatsApp has become a popular method of communicating.

Fixed broadband

The decline is fixed-line usage for voice has not stopped users keeping their Telkom lines for DSL, however, and DSL subscriptions have risen sharply in the past four years.

Fibre subscriptions have also climbed quickly in the past two years, pushing up the total number of fixed-broadband subscriptions in South Africa from just over 1 million in 2015 to 7.4 million in 2018.

The large majority of these connections were DSL, stated the report.

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Fixed lines in South Africa – Broadband yes, calling no