The Communications sector in Uganda has weathered the storm caused by COVID 19 and registered growth, with total subscriptions crossing the 28 million mark, according to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) quarterly market report.
The report indicates that there was a net account addition of 590,000 mobile and fixed subscriptions in the period January to March 2021. This resulted in the overall growth of Total Revenue Earning Customers (REC) from 27.7 million in December 2020 to 28.3 million accounts at the end of March 2021.
“The total subscriptions have crossed the 28 million mark since the pre-COVID19 peak of March 2020, it also represents a 2% quarter-on-quarter growth, the lowest rate of growth recorded in the last two quarters.”
In the mobile network space, the highlight of the quarter was the award of the third National Telecom Operator license to Tangerine Ltd, trading as LycaMobile Uganda, on March 24th 2021.The provisional license permits LycaMobile to deploy national telecommunications infrastructure and provide licensed telecommunications services across all the regional license zones defined by the licensor.
Non- expiring bundles
In response to the consumers concerns about expiring data, MTN Uganda became the first provider to launch non-expiring bundles under its flagship 4G Freedom at the end of the first quarter of 2021. This set the tone for an industry-wide review of bundle validity terms, as Smile Telecom introduced its Data King Bundle of 115 GBs while LycaMobile maintained its flagship 100 GB and 50 GB bundles.
MTN, Airtel separate mobile money from cellular network operations
In a bid to streamline this growing service in Uganda, the telecom giants MTN and Airtel were issued with a no objection to separate their digital finance business (mobile money) from the cellular network operations.
“These no objections are in partial fulfilment of new regulatory obligations instituted by the National Payments Systems Act 2020 and the Uganda Communications Pricing and Accounting Regulations 2019,” the report indicated.
On mobile money, following a clean-up of mobile network operators’ account registers, the number of active mobile money accounts was revised downwards, from 22.5 million to 20.3 million at the end of March 2021. This represents 66% of the 30.5 million registered mobile money accounts. The 66% active accounts amounts to double the African average of 30% account activity. On a year-on-year comparison, more than 5 million new accounts were registered between March 2020 and March 2021. This growth was largely fuelled by significant fee waivers, increased merchant acceptance and limited movements at the height of the pandemic.
As a whole, the telecommunications industry yet again posted quarterly gross revenues over and above the 1 trillion mark, with sh1.12 trillion recorded between January and March 2021.
This reflects a 7% increase in gross revenue compared to the first quarter of 2020 when revenues stood at sh1.05 trillion. In terms of quarter-on-quarter comparison, industry revenues dropped by sh 20 billion from the previous record quarterly performance of sh 1.14 trillion in December 2020 to sh1.12 trillion in March 2021.