Mobile Data, SMS traffic up as voice traffic declines


The National Communication Authority’s (NCA) Quarterly Statistical Bulletin on Communication in Ghana indicates that while mobile data and SMS traffics increased year-on-year between quarter one of 2021 and quarter one 2022, voice traffic rather dropped significantly over the same period.

Per the report, data traffic saw a very significant increase of 48.09%, from 205.38 billion megabytes at the end of Q1 2021 to 304.15 billion megabytes at the end of Q1 2022; and for the same period, SMS traffic also increased from 487.73 million to 630.73 million, representing 29.32% growth.

Meanwhile, domestic mobile voice traffic dropped by a 1.44 billion minutes from 27.28 billion minutes at the end of Q1 2021 to 25.84 billion minutes at the end of Q1 2022, representing a decrease rate of 5.29%.

The same trend reflected between the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. Per the report, mobile data traffic for Q4 2021 was 296.74 billion MB, but it increased by 2.5% to 304.15 billion MB in Q1 2022, while SMS traffic for the same period saw a 6.38% increase from 592.91 million to 630.73 million minutes.

On the contrary, mobile voice traffic for Q4 2021, which stood at 26.49 billion minutes in Q4 2021, dropped by 2.44% to 25.84 billion minutes in Q1 2022.

Indeed, none of that comes as a surprise because the significant market power (SMP) and Ghana’s telecom industry, MTN has been reporting a drop in its voice revenue for a while now, indicating that mobile voice in general, is experiencing some decline in favour of more VoIP (voice over internet protocol) calls such as WhatsApp, Telegram and even Facebook calls.

That most probably accounts for the significant 48% plus increase in overall data traffic, since every VoIP call translates into data consumption.

Usage per Subscription

A clearer explanation can be found in the average mobile internet usage per subscription as provided in the report.

According to the report, average mobile internet usage per subscription increased marginally from 4,262.7 MB at the end of Q4 2021 to 4293.5 MB at the end of Q1 2022. But between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022, it increased by a significant 50.59% from 2851.0 MB to 4293.5 MB at the end of Q1 2022.

On the contrary, average minutes of voice calls per subscriber saw some decline year-on-year as well as between the last quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022, clearly indicating that consumers are making less and less voice calls.

Per the report, between Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, the average minutes of voice calls per subscription decreased by 2.76% from 215.31 minutes to 209.37 minutes, while for the year-on-year period between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022, it again declined by 5.15% from 220.75 minutes to 209.37 minutes.

Meanwhile, average SMS per subscription also increased slight from 4.8 in Q4 2021 to 5.1 in Q1 2022, and also experience some year-on-year growth from 3.9 in Q1 2021 to 5.1 in Q1 2022.

Market Share

The report stopped short of providing the mobile voice traffic market share, but it provided mobile data traffic and SMS traffic market shares.

On the league table, market leader MTN generated the highest volume of internet traffic of 230.12 billion megabytes, representing a significant 75.66% market. Vodafone followed with a traffic of 48.82 billion megabytes, which is 16.05% market share and AirtelTigo had 17.77 billion megabytes of data – 5.84%; while Glo recorded the least data usage of 7.45 billion megabytes – 2.45%.

With regards to SMS volumes, MTN recorded 434.39 million over the period under review, representing a market share of 68.87% of the total. Vodafone saw 184.76 million SMSs, which is 29.29% of the total; AirtelTigo had a SMS count of 8.88 million, representing 1.41% and again Glo came in last with only 2.70 million SMS counts, which is 0.43%.

International Voice Traffic

Meanwhile, during the quarter under review, inbound international traffic decreased from 58.83 million minutes in Q4 2021 to 58.20 million minutes in Q1 2022, representing a decrease rate of 1.07%, and year-on-year inbound international traffic declined from 64.83 million minutes in Q1 2021 to 58.20 million minutes in Q1 2022 showing a decrease in growth by 10.23%.

But outbound international traffic recorded a much higher decline than inbound traffic, indicating again that Ghanaians are making more VoIP local than regular voice calls across borders as well.

Between Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, there was an 11.85% decline in outbound international call traffic from 100.08 million minutes 88.22 million minutes, while year-on–year, outbound international traffic fell from 120.51 million minutes to 88.22 million minutes, indicating a decline of 26.79%.

Currently, VoIP traffic is not being captured, as it runs mainly on data. But as regular voice calls begin to decline in favour of VoIP calls, regulators are very likely to begin to monitor those as well for the purposes of surtaxes.

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