Mobile network operators in Ghana registered about 1.1 million new lines within the first eight months of this year, bringing the mobile phone penetration rate to 111 percent, the National Communication Authority (NCA) has reported.
The growth in mobile subscription numbers is a significant boost to the country’s GDP as recent studies by the World Bank and others have found that in developing countries like Ghana, there is a 0.81 percent point increase in GDP for every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration.
According to the NCA, the total number of mobile phones in use in the country has now crossed a little above 29.5 million, which shows that there are more mobile phone chips (SIM cards) in Ghana than people.
The astronomical growth in mobile phone lines has affirmed concerns that the existence of multi-simming — which happens when one subscriber owns more than one SIM card — is widespread among mobile phone users.
On a month-to-month basis, mobile phone subscription growth increased marginally by 0.55% for the month of August to bring total subscriptions for the month to 162,251.
The subscription data released by the regulator shows that MTN still has a firm grip on the mobile voice market, commanding a 45.86 percent share while Vodafone follows with 22.65 percent. tiGO now has 13.60 percent share of the market, with Airtel closely behind with 12.72 percent. Glo and Expresso control 4.76 percent and 0.42 percent market share respectively.
The growth of mobile voice subscriptions in the country to some extent substitutes fixed line access. In fact, whilst mobile voice has continued to increase, fixed line voice has recorded erratic growth figures — from 268,952 at the beginning of the year to 265,286 at the end of August.
This development has excited mobile phone network stakeholders, who are of the view that there is significant grey market in voice telephony to be exploited despite the over-100% penetration rate — while others fear this is an indication that the country’s voice telephony market has reached a saturation point, with opportunities now being in the data market.
According to some of the leading mobile phone network operators in the country, the mobile penetration rate of the country is highly overrated — which calls for concerted efforts to deepen the business operating environment to bring communication services to a lot more people.
Such operators say that, in actual fact, only about half of the estimated 26.5 million-population currently have access to mobile voice and data services, signifying a wide untapped market for the telecom operators.
The mobile industry contributes close to 40 percent of government’s revenues and is a significant contributor to employment in the country, with hundreds of thousands of people employed directly and indirectly in the mobile ecosystem.