Social applications drive South African mobile broadband usage

taginlineimportUsage of specific applications such as Mxit and Facebook Mobile are driving mobile internet usage among South African cellular users, according to a new study from World Wide Worx. However, many users ignore much of the functionality available on their devices. When it comes to instant messaging, for example, 28% of urban cellphone owners use it but 65% have the capability to do so on their phones. That means IM is used by only 4.5 million users out of a potential base of 10.5 million.
Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, commented:"It is quite startling to find how many have these features on these phones but don't use them, either out of ignorance or cost concerns."
The study's findings also uncovered that more than half of urban cellular users are able to access email on their phones and as many as 60% are able to browse the mobile internet. If that capability was fully exploited, the South African Internet user base would soar from the 5.3 million World Wide Worx reported in 2009 to 9.6 million.
Meanwhile, a new white paper from Delta Partners has highlighted that South African mobile services may not be as expensive as the perception of them may suggest. According to the paper, several factors have combined to give the impression of expensive services. South Africa is not a particularly densely populated country, it has a medium degree of urbanisation and has high energy prices, all of which contribute to the cost per minute of services to consumers. In addition, says Andrew Snead, senior partner for sub-Saharan Africa at Delta Partners, the country's operators are still at a stage of relatively high capital investment in terms of telecom infrastructure, which adds extra challenges to operators' cash flow generation.
With fixed minutes in decline and low internet and broadband penetration, it is clear, Snead thinks, that the country's next area of growth will be mobile data. Broadband subscribers are expected to reach more than 9 million by 2013, representing an annual growth rate of 20% over the next four years.
Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.