MTN Group said on Thursday that it has topped 100 million active data customers – technically, 100 million Sims with an active data connection – for the first time.
The telecommunications group, which operates in 21 markets across Africa and the Middle East, has a total subscriber base of 257 million, meaning that 39% is connected to the Internet.
“The group is overcoming the barriers to greater mobile Internet adoption by extending its 3G and 4G coverage, accelerating smartphone adoption and transforming prices,” it said in an e-mailed statement.
MTN said it now covers 480 million people with services capable of connecting them to the Internet. However, about 60% of rural populations in Africa remain unconnected.
To support smartphone adoption, in 2019 MTN distributed 675 000 cheap, data-enabled handsets across 12 markets. It also launched a digital literacy programme in nine markets.
Data pricing is also key, it said. In 2018 and 2019, MTN reduced entry-level data rates across its footprint by 60%.
“We believe the consumer mobile data market will grow enormously over the next few years,” said MTN Group CEO Shuter. “The Covid-19 pandemic has served to accelerate the adoption of mobile data, digital services and financial services. As a result, we have recorded increases of up to 50% in data volumes in some markets, as work and studying from home becomes a reality for many.”
Shuter said MTN wants to expand its customer base “over time” to 300 million and for at least two-thirds of that number to be using data services.