The latest telecom subscriptions figures published by the National Communications Authority (NCA) just before it announced the approval of the Airtel-Tigo merger shows that between March, when the merger was first announced, and July 2017, Tigo has been gaining subscribers, as Airtel loses subscribers.
It also shows that market leader MTN has been gaining both data and voice subscriptions, while Vodafone and Glo both gained voice but each lost data subscribers over the four-month period.
The figures show that Tigo’s voice subscriptions stood at about 5.1 million in March 2017, when the merger was first announced; but it increased by over 412,000 to 5.5 million plus as at the end of July 2017, representing 8.1 per cent growth.
In effect, Tigo finished the 90-day reporting period ending July 2017 with 14.84 per cent total market share. This means Tigo also grew market share by some 0.59 percentage points from 14.25 per cent in March.
On the contrary, the records show that in March when the merger was announced, Airtel’s voice subscriptions were a little over 4.5 million, but it has dropped by 283,417 customers to a little over 4.2 million as at the end of July 2017.
The figure represents a decrease of 6.3 per cent, leaving them with a market share of 11.36 per cent at the end of July. This represents a 1.22 percentage point drop in market share.
On the data side, again Tigo gained an extra over 280,000 data customers to increase from about 2.75 million in March to about 3.03 million customers in July 2017, representing a 13.70 per cent market share.
But Airtel again dropped data customers between March and July 2017. In March it had over 2.8 million data subscriptions, but by July, it had lost some 67,448 and dropped to just above 2.7 million subscriptions, representing a market share of 12.37 per cent.
The data figures also show that while Tigo gained some 0.88 percentage point in data market share, Airtel again lost 0.63 percentages point in data market share between March and July this year.
Industry watchers were therefore not surprised when, at the time the merger was announced, the General Manager of Tigo Ghana, Roshi Motman was tipped as the CEO of the merged company.
Tigo-Airtel vs Vodafone
It is however important to note that as Airtel and Tigo come together, they will command an aggregated subscriber level of at least 9.73 million, which represents a market share of 26.2 per cent.
This changes the subscriber base dynamics because even though the second largest player, Vodafone increased subscription from 8.6 million in March 2017, to over 8.9 million in July 2017, its market share stood at 24.02 per cent, which is 2.2 per cent shy of that of the merged company.
Also on the data side, the combined data customer base of Airtel and Tigo increased from 5.55 million in March to 5.76 million plus in July, while Vodafone’s data subscribers rather decreased marginally from 3.68 million in March to 3.64 million in July.
In effect, Tigo and Airtel together boast of a combined data market share of 26.07 per cent, which is about 10 per cent higher than Vodafone’s 16.48 per cent data market share.
So the merged companies have pushed Vodafone down to third place in terms of subscriptions. But the difference is less than a million, and industry experts believe it is not insurmountable for a player like Vodafone.
It is however important to note that the two entities in the merger will not merge their networks yet. They will continue to run their networks parallel to each other and merge gradually in various communities as they go along.
They have between 18 and 24 months to completely merge the two networks and the decision to move customers from one network to the other in a particular community, would depend largely on which of the two offers the best services in that community.
The two companies have been mandated by the NCA to make customer interest the bedrock of whatever decision they make in order to prevent any negative impact on customers.
Indeed, the network merge is expected to deliver better quality of service to customers, as the two providers get the benefit of exploring more of their spectrum to enrich the service quality.
The issue with the impact of the differences in billing and short code services is also expected to be handled with extensive customer education before any changes are implemented.
In other words, if there is a service on Tigo, which was free but Airtel has a fee for a similar service and the merged company decides to go for the Airtel option, the Tigo customers would need to be educated extensively before the changes, and vice-a-versa.
The two are also expected to submit their customer education plan to the NCA for review and approval, and support where necessary, before implementation.
MTN, Glo, Expresso
Meanwhile, market leader MTN continued in its winning ways, gaining almost 866,000 customers between March and July to reach over 17.6 million subscriptions as of July ending.
This represents a percentage increase of 5.16 per cent over the four month period, leaving MTN with 47.54 per cent market share.
It would be recalled that MTN deleted some 3.4 million inactive lines from its network a month before the Airtel-Tigo merger was announced and that affected the total mobile cellular penetration for the country marginally.
MTN’s mobile data subscriptions for March was 11.9 million plus, and it grew by some 539,385 customers to reach over 12.44 million in July 2017. Its data market share therefore stood at 56.29 per cent as of July ending.
Glo Ghana also made some gains in voice subscriptions, increased customers from 769,621 as at the end of March 2017 to 809,269 at the end of July 2017.
This reflects a percentage increase of about 5.2 per cent since the Tigo-Airtel merger was announced, leaving Glo with a total market share of 2.18 per cent as of July ending.
But Glo lost a little more than 17,700 data subscriptions over the four-month period, from 263,919 in March 2017 to 246,201 at the end of July 2017. This reflects a market share of 1.11 per cent.
Meanwhile, there were no July figures reported for Expresso as the NCA noted those figures were not available, except the already reported April figures, which stood at a little over 23,000, representing 0.06 per cent market share.
Expresso’s mobile data subscriber figures as at the end of April 2017 was 10,151. This represents a market share of 0.05 per cent for the month under review. Again, there were no data subscription figures for Expresso beyond April.
By Samuel Dowuona