There are now almost two registered SIM cards for every South African.
According to the latest available data from the four largest service providers, there are 94.3 million registered SIM cards in South Africa.
Of these, 43.8% are at Vodacom, 30.8% at MTN and 12.7% at both Telkom and Cell C.
This is not uncommon for a country to have more mobile subscriptions (or registered SIM cards) than people.
Globally, there are more than eight billion such mobile connections to a mobile phone network, with a total global population of approximately 7.8 billion, the Swedish technology company Ericsson found.
This does not mean, however, that all registered SIM cards generate revenue for the service providers.
Almost 83% of the active SIM cards in South Africa are prepaid rather than contracted.
Vodacom has the most prepaid customers with 35.2 million, according to the carrier’s latest available results for the year to end-March.
However, MTN has the most customers on contract with 6.3 million according to its results for the quarter to the end of March.
Thanks to tough competition, especially in terms of price data, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C have lost a significant number of subscribers in the last year or so while Telkom is still growing.
For the year to end-March, its total number of subscribers increased by almost 24% to 12 million.
Telkom and Cell C now have the same number of customers. Telkom’s number of contract customers is more than Cell C’s (2.6 million versus 1.1 million).
Cell C lost a significant 21% of its prepaid customers in the year to end-December. Contract clients are also 5% down on the previous year.
Vodacom has 6.1 million contract customers, 4.2% more than a year ago, while MTN’s total number of prepaid customers now amounts to 22.7 million.
As a whole, South Africa has 16.1 million contract customers versus 78.2 million prepaid customers.