Internet use grows at the expense of voice demand, in South Africa

South Africa’s mobile service providers are noticing a shift in consumer spending as mobile phone owners begin to focus spending on more data usage.

The Mobility 2012 research study, conducted by South Africa-based research company World Wide Worx, and backed by First National Bank, FNB, shows that the average user’s cellphone spending on data has increased by 50 percent.

The findings further indicate that in the past year and a half, consumer spending on data use has upped from 8 percent of a consumer’s mobile budget, at the end of 2010 to 12 percent in mid-2012.

On the other hand, consumer spending on voice has dropped from 77 percent to 73 percent in the same period, precisely matching the difference in data spend reports the research study.

Meanwhile, SMS (text messaging) spend remains steady at 12 percent, and full music tracks feature for the first time – taking up 1 percent of the average spend on a cellphone.

FNB Cellphone Banking’s chief executive Ravesh Ramlakan said the findings represent powerful backing for the bank’s strategy to provide services across new channels and platforms like FNB.Mobi, Facebook and the apps environment.

“We’re keeping our fingers on the pulse of these rapid changes, and will expand and refine our offerings as the market’s use of these tools changes,” Ramlakan said.

Instant messaging services realised the biggest use of data services on mobile phones, with more than a fivefold increase in the proportion of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) users in the past 18 months, which went from 3 percent to 17 percent of adult mobile phone users living in cities and towns.

Also, the instant messaging application WhatsApp emerged to claim popularity and use among 25 percent of the adult mobile phone users in South Africa.

Internet browsing saw a substantial increase rising from 33 percent to 41percent of users. Proportionally, the biggest growth after BBM was seen in the Twitter user base, which rose from 6 percent to 12 percent of adult mobile phone owners.

“Spend on data is a barometer for the rapid increase both in the number of Internet users in South Africa and in the intensity with which experienced users engage with the Internet,” explained Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

This is only the beginning: the social networking genie is out of the bottle, says Goldstuck, businesses have to recognise the trend, and begin developing strategies to address it.”

The Mobility 2012 research was conducted through interviews with 1,200 South Africans across all age demographics from 16 years of age and upwards. It was conducted in both metropolitan and rural areas but excluded the deep-rural population, and represents approximately 18-million South Africans.

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