MTN now has 100 million active data users on its networks across Africa and the Middle East. The pan-African telco's total base comprises more than 257 million customers in 21 markets, so that means about 40% of the customer base are using data.
"We believe the consumer mobile data market will grow enormously over the next few years," said MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate the adoption of mobile data, digital services and financial services. As a result, we have recorded increases of up to 50% in data volumes in some markets, as work and studying from home becomes a reality for many," he added.
Shuter wants to grow the overall MTN customer base to 300 million over time and his ambition is to have at least two-thirds of the base, or 200 million customers, using data to access the Internet on the MTN network.
"The 100 million achieved today marks the halfway mark in the MTN journey," he said.
MTN said in a statement that growth through scaling data and digital services is central to its strategy and it is pushing for greater mobile Internet adoption in the region by extending its 3G and 4G coverage, accelerating smartphone adoption and overhauling its pricing.
MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter
MTN's goals are in line with recent forecasts from the June 2020 Ericsson Mobility Report, which predicts that mobile data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase 12-fold by 2025. Ericsson expects average traffic per smartphone to reach 7.1GB per month in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, compared to 1.6GB per month in 2019.
MTN said that over the past three years, well over 100 million more people in MTN's footprint have been covered by its data network.
"This brings the group's network coverage for data services to beyond 480 million people. However, about 60% of rural populations in Africa remain unconnected. To benefit from connectivity, they need affordable devices as well as the digital literacy to easily access relevant and meaningful content."
To support smartphone adoption, in 2019 MTN distributed 675,000 affordable data-enabled handsets across 12 markets. It also launched a digital literacy program in nine markets, helping over 3 million people improve their understanding of the mobile Internet and applications.
Data affordability is also key. In 2018 and 2019, MTN said it reduced entry-level data rates across its footprint by 60%. In 2019 alone, it cut the effective data price per megabyte by 34%.
— The Staff, Connecting Africa