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Network investments, cheaper handsets boost East African mobile - Frost & Sullivan

Four East African markets are set for growth by 2017 as a result of higher network investment, product innovation and cheaper handsets. Frost & Sullivan make their confident assertions in a new report East African Mobile Communications Markets...

The mobile communications markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are in their growth stages. In 2008, Kenya enjoyed the highest number of active subscribers and revenues among the four countries. Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are however likely to witness significant growth over the next seven years due to increasing network investments, continuing product innovation and reduced handset costs.

 New analysis from Frost & Sullivan published under the name East African Mobile Communications Markets finds that the market earned revenues of US$2.62 billion in 2008, and estimates this to reach US$8.99 billion in 2015. The technologies covered in this study are Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), GSM, General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA).

 Currently, there are 37.6 million mobile subscribers in east Africa, at a penetration rate of 30.8%. The total number of subscribers is
expected to reach 99.5 million in 2015, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.9%.

 "The key drivers in these markets include strong GDP growth rates, increasing demand for mobile money transfer services and declining handset costs," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Jiaqi Sun. "East African consumers are spending more on mobile communications due to the low fixed-line network coverage, underdeveloped banking systems, and the current limited availability of inexpensive handsets...The launching of undersea cables is anticipated to reduce the cost of telecommunications by 60% over the next seven years. This will boost the demand for mobile Internet access."

However, there are challenges faced by the market participants such as high tax rates on mobile services, the lack of network rollout in rural areas and the current low demand for data services. Additionally, the demand for data services from corporate clients has dwindled due to the economic downturn.

"Frost & Sullivan expects mobile network operators to enhance their services by continuously investing in infrastructure like call-switching capacity," Jiaqi Sun continues. "This will help in developing innovative solutions like mobile money transfer services, and initiate managed services by outsourcing non-core businesses like network maintenances. These strategies will step-up the demand for mobile services, boosting subscriber and revenue growth."

* East African Mobile Communications Markets is part of the Frost & Sullivan Mobile & Wireless Growth Partnership Services programme, which also includes research in the following markets: Southern Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and Mozambique. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Frost & Sullivan leverages over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment
community from 40 offices on six continents.

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