Kenya’s second largest mobile service provider Airtel registered 1.2 million new subscribers in the second quarter of the current financial year, marking the biggest three-month rise in subscribers recorded by any telco in recent years.
According to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), Airtel recorded a 20 per cent increase, pushing up the overall number of mobile subscribers to 42.8 million.
“The total number of mobile subscriptions recorded by Airtel rose to 7.3 million subscriptions from 6.1 million,” said a report from the regulator. “This marked an increase of 20.7 per cent during the quarter.”
The period under review – October to December 2017 – was also marked by intense political activity following the disputed General Election that saw many firms report depressed business activity.
Leading mobile services provider Safaricom especially faced a challenge when it was put on a boycott list by the Opposition alongside several other firms.
The bump in subscriber figures widened Airtel’s market share to 17.2 per cent from 14.9 per cent recorded during the previous quarter.
Safaricom’s market share, on the other hand, reduced marginally to 69.1 per cent from 71.9 per cent, even as the number of its subscribers rose by 73,800 to sit at 29.5 million.
This suggests that the majority of Airtel’s 1.2 million new subscribers did not discard their Safaricom lines.
Airtel recorded an increase in mobile voice traffic with a total of 2.5 billion minutes during the quarter, up from 1.9 billion previously. This saw its market share expand by 4.6 per cent to 22 per cent.
Telkom Kenya, which rebranded last year following the acquisition by UK private equity fund Helios, gained 400,000 new subscribers, putting its total subscriptions at 3.8 million.
The latest industry report comes in the wake of revelations that Airtel and Telkom Kenya are mulling plans to merge their operations after years of mounting debts.
Last year also saw significant growth in the number of Internet subscriptions across the various segments, with mobile data registering the largest growth.
According to the CA statistics, the number of mobile data subscriptions grew from 26.5 million in December 2016 to 33 million in December last year.
This was attributed to the growing ownership of smartphones with users taking advantage of the influx of affordable devices from Chinese vendors.
Safaricom saw its market share in mobile data drop to 72.8 per cent from 76 per cent recorded in the previous quarter. Airtel, on the other hand, recorded a 2.8 per cent rise with its share standing at 18.5 per cent.