Weekly digest for 12 Mar 2021


This week’s main story is from Tanzania, where the government is looking at ways to charge consumers for WhatsApp calls in order to recoup the revenue operators have lost in international traffic. Data shows that international calls have fallen from 107.2 million minutes in 2012 to just over 27 million minutes in the 4th quarter 2020. The government ascribes the loss in traffic to WhatsApp. The regulatory authority, TCRA, installed a Telecommunication Traffic Monitoring System and TCRA says that this will enable it to identify phones that make and receive calls through WhatsApp. Based on this traffic analysis, TCRA says it is investigating additional data charges to recoup government tax revenues. Mobile pricing is currently being revised and is expected to come into affect on the 2nd of April 2021. We’ll keep an eye on this story in the upcoming weeks.


  • South Africa: This story is a follow-up from the previous two weeks: as predicted, the auction for High Demand Spectrum (spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands) has been postponed after the high court halted the process. The High Court agreed with Telkom that it was impossible to go ahead with the auction since the digital dividend bands (700MHz and 800MHz) are still used by analogue TV broadcasters.
  • Nigeria: MTN has acquired an additional 10MHz of spectrum the 800MHz band. MTN’s active data subscribers has grown by 7.4 million to 36.3 million subscribers in December 2020. MTN ascribes the increase to its growing 4G network, which had previously lagged behind Airtel.
  • Zimbabwe: MNOs have increased their prices based on a directive from the regulator, POTRAZ. New prices came into affect in early March. However, some analysts are concerned that the new prices will be unable to keep up with rampant inflation in Zimbabwe.
  • Malawi: TNM has appointed a new CEO after the resignation of Michiel Buitelaar in November last year.
  • South Sudan: Zain has launched 4G services. The rollout of 4G will help Zain to compete against MTN, whose active data subscribers grew by 88% in 2020.
  • MTN: MTN added 29 million new subscribers in 2020 and increased its EBITDA margin to a phenomenal 42.7%. In Uganda, MTN’s active data subscriber base grew by 34.8% and South Africa’s grew by 11%.
  • MTN South Africa: MTN’s wholesale revenues in South Africa declined by 16% after the roaming agreement with Cell C was cancelled. Cell C has signed a roaming agreement with Telkom, who, in turn, roams on Vodacom’s network.