1/3rd of South African mobile users have more than 1 sim card

The South African cellular market reached a milestone of 50-milion connections at the end of 2008 – but only 68% of these represented individual users according to a study carried out by World Wide Worx, backed by First National Bank (FNB), and Research In Motion (RIM).

In South Africa, cellphones have become the most easily accessible and convenient way of offering services to remote areas, and an understanding of cellphone usage and trends is necessary to leverage the technology effectively.

The findings of the preliminary research for the annual Mobility survey confirm that South Africa’s cellular market continues to enjoy robust growth, even with market penetration at around 100%.

Preliminary research for Mobility 2009 was based on analysis of Government and institutional data, as well as personal interviews with key role players in the cellular sector, including network operators and wireless application service providers.

The research shows that the average number of SIM connections, or active cellphone accounts, per cellphone user in South Africa began to grow steadily after pre-paid accounts were introduced in 1996. It grew from an average of one SIM card per phone user in 1997 to 1.2 per user in 2003 and to 1.47 per user at the end of 2008. The gap between users and connections is expected to continue to grow as both consumers and businesses find more innovative approaches to cellphone usage.

It’s become clear that many pre-paid users have a SIM card for each major network, to avoid incurring the interconnection fee charged for calls between networks. The low cost of new SIM cards – as little as 50c for a starter pack – also gives anyone the ability to have more than one number. The interconnect fee adds R1.25 to the cost of every call, and has prompted new approaches to cellphone usage in South Africa.

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