This report, published in February 2021, presents an analysis of the mobile data market as background to the development of the 5G market. The state of the current 5G market is analysed. The expected 5G coverage and subscribers are forecast to 2025. Various 5G use cases are discussed.

Mobile Data Market
Currently five retail mobile operators compete in the SA mobile data market (Cell C, MTN, Rain, Telkom, Vodacom) along with a host of retail MVNOs. Rain is a data-only mobile network operator. 

Other than Rain, the balance of the mobile operators sell mobile data through their direct-to-market channel and a host of indirect channels. Rain only sells through a direct-to-market channel.

Mobile Operators

Overall, the mobile data growth was strongly helped by the demand for connectivity created by the 2020 COVID-19 hard lockdown and required distancing protocols. As a result, mobile data traffic annual growth delivered a three year high. The 2020 market numbers are:

  • Total mobile data traffic reached 2.6EB, showing annual growth of 73%.
  • Revenue earned from the retail mobile data market reached R58 billion, showing annual growth of 9.5%.
  • Overall, the mobile data traffic growth is growing at 4.8x the CAGR of retail mobile data revenue.

5G Market Status
South Africa is a leading adopter of new mobile generation technology. This is based on the dates of the 2G, 3G and 4G launches in South Africa against the dates for all networks launched in these generations across the globe. Typically, South Africa is among the early 10% of networks launched. The launch of 5G by Rain, in 2019, continues with this trend. In 2020, MTN and Vodacom launched 5G services. While the market is in an early growth phase, the 5G population coverage reached 4.4% with an estimated 90 thousand 5G subscribers.

5G Market Forecast
Following the conclusion of the upcoming spectrum auction, the market is expected to show strong growth. This will drive 5G subscribers to reach 11 million by 2025. Some of the key drivers are:

  • Spectrum: In terms of timing, the key driver will be the conclusion of the upcoming high-demand spectrum auction planned for March 2021. On conclusion of the auction, we expect to see rapid 5G coverage roll out. For example, MTN, at its 5G launch, stated that it will cover 10 million people within 12 months after being awarded the spectrum.
  • Low cost 5G smartphones: Another key driver will be the availability of 5G devices. Specifically, the range of low cost 5G smartphones as this will be a key driver of uptake. The number of announced 5G devices, from a global view, at December 2020 has already surpassed the equivalent number of 4G devices at three years after the introduction of 4G. This shows the strong support for 5G by device OEMs.
  • Prepaid: Introducing prepaid 5G products will enable the mobile operators to tap into the largest mobile market segment.
  • Network roaming: The licensing of the WOAN (Wireless Open Access Network Operator), the commercial national roaming agreements and the role of wholesale network operators will enable 5G coverage to grow rapidly.

Buy this critical report
Understanding the current mobile data market, the market drivers and the anticipated growth in 5G is critical to any stakeholder looking to understand the 5G market opportunities in South Africa. This 50 page report covers the following topics:

  • Summary
  • South African Mobile Data Market
  • High-Demand Spectrum Auction and WOAN Licensing
  • The Current 5G Market
  • The 5G Market Opportunity
  • 5G Use Cases
  • Acronyms / Glossary / Research Methodology

Please contact Dobek Pater (dobek@africaanalysis.co.za) to discuss the purchase of this critical report.