The National Communication Authority (NCA) has described the performance of mobile network operators in the data market as “fairly average” as the number of people who access Internet services on their mobile devices reaches 10 million.
The data market, which is considered as the next frontier for network operators, grew by 19.5 percent last year from 8.6 million access lines in January to 10.3 million at the end of December.
This puts the rate of data penetration at almost 40% in a population of 26 million.
The NCA in reviewing the data market said: “Data subscription for year 2013 had an undulating projection, and so it can be said that performance of the mobile phone operators was fairly average”.
Growth in the data market, which has been erratic, is still controlled MTN with 47.3% of the market share. This positions the leading mobile network operator well to increase its revenue streams as mobile data is predicted to overtake voice within the next four years.
This is followed by Airtel with 18.5% share of the data market. tiGO and Vodafone each ended last year with 15.3 and 15.7 percent respectively with Expresso and Glo having 0.37 and 2.9 percent of the market in that order.
MTN’s performance in the data market is remarkable in a market of five other operators despite having its share wane from 67.4 percent in January 2013.
MTN, which last week partnered telecom vendor and manufacturer Huawei Technologies to bring into the market a new entry-level smartphone, Ascend Y210, is hopeful that its strategies in the data market will enable the company to widen access to data services in the country.
The company last year spent US$105million on additional network upgrades and expansions with similar capital expenditure expected this year.
MTN Ghana recently said that data remains a key driver in the company’s operations as its data revenues increased 96.1% in 2012 — and the trend is continuing with lower data tariffs and bundles.
Growth in the mobile data market has been helped by the proliferation of cheap smartphones, which have helped to drive mobile data traffic to social media platforms and other Internet applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.
At present many Ghanaians use phones, not PCs, to access the Internet because broadband connectivity is incredibly slow and the nation lacks a decent fixed-line network.