Uganda’s telephone penetration hits the 69% mark

By Mark Kawalya

Mobile and fixed telephone subscriptions are one of the main catalysts for growth in the communication sector, with the market registering a combined total of 29 million users by the third quarter of 2021.

However, according to the latest market performance report that was released by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), net quarterly additions stood at only 200,000 new subscriptions in the three months spanning July-September 2021.

In comparison, this figure is only a third of the net quarterly subscriber additions seen in the previous two quarters, signifying that the COVID-19 related spikes in demand associated with the last four quarters might be easing off. 

The report indicates that although the quarter-on-quarter additions dipped, the 12-month duration ending September 2021 saw a tangible 10% year-on-year growth that translated into 2.6 million new customers joining networks. 

With total subscriptions at 29.1 million, this led to a 69% penetration, which on a national scale equates to a penetration of 7 lines for every 10 Ugandans regardless of age.  

Notably, the report indicates that of the 200,000 new mobile subscribers in quarter three, 85% were data-enabled connections.

This high broadband connectivity conversion is reportedly driven by the continued shift to data-enabled low-cost entry terminals pushed by both mobile network operators and independent handset importers.

By the end of September, total internet subscriptions had surpassed the 22 million threshold, a broadband penetration of 52%, which means a majority of Ugandans are now connected to the internet using a mobile device. 

Mobile subscription growth has also had an incremental effect on mobile money accounts, with total users increasing by 900,000 during the quarter. At the close of September 2021, 32.3 million accounts were registered under mobile money. 

This is indicative of budding business activity resulting from progressively positioning mobile devices as financial tools. The percentage of Ugandans who make a living working as mobile money agents also grew by 11%, from 285,371 in June 2021 to 315,895 by the close of September 2021. 

Year-on-year analysis shows that the agent footprint in the country flourished by 39%, with more than 88,000 mobile money agents entering the Digital Financial Service (DFS) ecosystem in the last 12 months. 

Domestic voice traffic saw an increase in the number of minutes to 16.8 billion from July–September 2021, which is almost 1 billion more minutes than domestic traffic volumes documented in April–June 2021.  “This 6% domestic traffic growth represents the highest quarter-on-quarter domestic traffic growth in the last 12 months (four quarters),” the report stated.

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