A record 1.8 million new mobile subscribers joined the network between January and March 2020, the latest communications sector market performance report indicates.
Thanks to this rise, mobile subscriptions stood at 28.4 million at the end of March 2020, up from 26.7 million three months earlier, representing a 7% quarter-on-quarter growth.
With that, according to the quarterly report released by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) this week, the national tele-density now stands at 67%, having grown from 66% at the end of December 2019.
These indicators, the report states, could in part be attributed to the onset of COVID-19, which made it imperative to work from home, as well as many Ugandans returning home from abroad.
As mobile subscriptions grew exponentially during the period under review, so did internet subscriptions, which rose from 16.9 million to 18.8 million during the same period. This leap was in line with the yearly trajectory, which saw total internet subscriptions grow by 31% over 12 months (March 2019 – March 2020).
Mobile devices continued to stand out as the internet access medium of choice, accounting for more than 95% of new growth during the quarter. At the end of the review period, mobile internet subscriptions accounted for 99.6% of all internet subscriptions.
“The new growth in internet subscriptions and internet-enabled hardware on the market translates into an internet penetration of 45 internet connections per 100 Ugandans,” the report says.
Indeed feature phones with basic internet access and smartphones remain the driver of the new mobile internet subscriptions, having grown from 23.8 million devices in December 2019 to 24.4 million in March 2020.
On mobile financial services, registered mobile money accounts grew by almost 700,000 users during the quarter, from 24.7 million registered accounts in December 2019 to 25.4 million in March 2020.
Of these, 21 million accounts undertook at least one billable mobile money transaction in the 90 days preceding March 31, 2020. As it is, for every two Ugandans, at least one has an active mobile wallet.
“While registered accounts grew at only 0.9% during the quarter, the growth in active mobile money accounts averaged 4% during the same period,” the report states, pointing out that seventy-five (75%) of the new transactions were on previously dormant accounts.
Turning to broadband traffic, the report points to significant growth in MBs used, from 42.3 billion MBs in the fourth quarter of 2019 (October – December 2019) to 49 billion MBs in March 2020.
“The market averaged 16.34 billion MBs downloaded per month during the quarter, with a traffic peak of 18.3 billion in March 2020,” the report says, adding that this translates into an average of 582.2 MBs per subscriber per month.
Highlighting growth in usage of Over The Top (OTT) services (such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter), the report reveals that at least 10.63 million users accessed OTT services at least once during the month of March 2020, compared to 10.16 million users during the month of December 2019. This represents a growth rate of 5%.
Regarding revenues, the telecommunications sector posted the highest quarterly revenues recorded, crossing the Shs1 trillion mark in total quarterly earnings for the first time. At the end of the previous quarter (December 2019), the figure was Shs 937.4billion, representing a quarter-on-quarter growth of 12%.
The revenue lines under consideration include retail and wholesale revenues such as tower lease sales, international bandwidth, mobile financial services, as well as voice and data services. It is worth noting that the share of mobile data with respect to total sector revenues grew by a factor of almost 2%.
However, as total revenues in the telecommunication sector rose, so did the monthly cost of service, which jumped from Shs 230 billion to Shs 238 billion during the same period. The cost of service incorporates expenses on input/wholesale services, salaries, taxes and depreciation, among other key metrics.
As for the broadcasting sector, the report indicates that by the end of March 2020, 39 Free To Air (FTAs) TV channels were hosted on the Government-owned SIGNET platform.
Besides, there were seven (7) licensed pay-TV channels served by a combination of satellite, cable and digital terrestrial networks. Total active pay-TV subscribers were 1.58 million as of March 2020, having dropped from 1.69 million in the preceding quarter, a contraction of 6%.
The contraction is partly attributed to the suspension of major sports competitions such as the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League due to COVID-19 in March 2020.