Mobile money deals drop as Equitel excluded from data

The value of mobile money transactions dropped 20 per cent in the first quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year against a similar period last year, new data shows.

The value stood at Sh1.7 trillion for the period between July to September.

A sector statistics report by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) said the drop in the overall value and number of transactions was a result of excluding Equity’s Finserve from the data on account of reclassification.

“The authority in the July-September 2019 statistics has revised its data on mobile money services, with the exclusion of data on Equitel Money, which is a mobile banking service as opposed to a mobile service offered by telecommunications service providers,” said CA in the report.

This led to a drop in the number of mobile money subscriptions, number and value of transactions as well as indicators on mobile commerce transactions.

The reclassification has given Safaricom’s M-Pesa a 99.9 per cent share of the mobile money market, with Airtel Money and Telkom Kenya’s T-Kash taking up the rest.

At the same time, broadband service provider Wananchi Online, which has traditionally led the market with its Zuku service, has lost the market lead to Safaricom.

Data from the regulator indicates Safaricom had 154,603 subscribers in the first quarter of 2019/2020, accounting for 34 per cent of the market, against Zuku’s 151,584 with 33 per cent of the market.

Telkom Kenya registered a 16 per cent drop in mobile subscribers with the telco’s 4.2 million subscribers accounting for 3.1 per cent of the market.

The company registered a total of 552.8 million minutes originating from its mobile network in the quarter under review, down from 647.3 million reported in the previous quarter.

The statistics are another blow to Telkom Kenya that has had a tumultuous year as it seeks to merge its operations with the country’s second largest mobile operator, Airtel.

Earlier this month, tower infrastructure firm Eaton Towers shut down Telkom masts for a week in some parts of the country for failure to pay hundreds of millions of shillings in leasing fees.

The shutdown affected 70 of Telkom’s base stations with the firm’s subscribers in the affected regions unable to call, text, send money or browse the Internet.

It took the intervention CA for Eaton to restore services even as Telkom made efforts to clear 30 per cent of the debt.

According to CA, the number of active mobile subscriptions stood at 53.2 million as at September 30, 2019 up from 52.2 million subscriptions reported at the end of June, representing a mobile (SIM) penetration level of 112 per cent.

CA says the high mobile penetration is as a result of subscribers having more than one SIM card.

However, net additions in the number of new subscribers went down from 2.8 million in December last year to one million in September this year, indicating the market is almost reaching saturation in uptake of SIM cards.

CA recently released new guidelines for telecommunication service providers on the sale and registration of SIM cards.

The guidelines, currently open for public participation, include requirements for registration agents to be licensed by the authority before they can sell or register the cards.

“Telecommunications operators shall ensure that they engage the services of authorised or licensed registration agents with a valid compliance certificate issued by the authority,” the draft guidelines say.

At the same time, service providers and their registration agents have been barred from hawking SIM cards and to ensure subscribers get the SIM cards from formal retail outlets even during promotions.

CA hopes the regulations will limit cases of unregistered SIM cards being used for criminal activities and spamming, currently a nuisance for the many mobile subscribers.

Outgoing mobile traffic on Airtel Kenya rose to 7.2 billion minutes during the period under review from 6.3 billion registered in the preceding quarter, with the telco’s voice market share increasing by 1.3 per cent to 40.3 per cent.

“During the period under review, mobile subscriptions market shares for Safaricom rose by 1.4 percentage points to stand at 64.9 per cent, whereas that for Telkom Kenya declined by the same margin to stand at 6.7 per cent,” said CA in its report.

The number of active mobile money subscriptions and agents stood at 31.2 million and 235,168 respectively.

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