For a long time, things have been stagnant in the Kenyan telecommunications market. Safaricom is the dominant player in the market, the network we love to hate, the network we leave but come back for. I think mostly because of its great customer care.
Anyway, according to the 2nd quarter report by CCK, Safaricom owns a large percent of us (64.5%), followed in the far distance by Airtel (16.9%), Essar – Yu Mobile (10.5%) and finally Orange at 8.1%. Mobile penetration is at 80%. The status quo has remained for many years, with consumers left with no choice but to remain with the dominant player, Safaricom, due to reasons such as loyalty, number portability that doesn’t work, the ubiquitous M-Pesa services, the best customer care, the loudest adverts etc.
Finally, some changes in the market:
- Recently, Yu Mobile was offered for sale (to Safaricom/Airtel). Whichever company buys it, will see its market share rise. If Safaricom buys it (Safaricom is my bet), it will see its market share rise to 75%. Talk of a monopoly! Will things improve for Yu customers? I think so, though they will now have to pay more for the same services. I think Safaricom is the most expensive network.
- CCK licensed Equity Bank, Zioncell and Mobile Pay on Friday 14th April 2014. 3 more networks! That should shake things up a bit. The operators will be hosted on Airtel’s unused capacity on the network, meaning they will share infrastructure. So it is not the case that Airtel lacks infrastructure or services, there are other reasons for its inability to increase its market share.
I am generally excited about the Equity move, because Equity is aggressive. Here is what I think will happen:
- Prices will come down. In a bid to lure new customers (I for one, might line up for a line), Equity will have lower prices.
- New customers will be dissatisfied and disgruntled customers of Safaricom, Airtel or any other network. Having used three networks so far, including Orange, I am definitely looking for a network that will give me value for money
- Equity will go after the remaining 20%. Remember market penetration is about 20%
- Here is the best part, Equity will partner with Airtel on more than the network level. When they partner to launch a cheaper better, more visible, ‘everywhere kind of’ mobile money service I will already have had my line. Airtel Money + Equity Agents = a cheaper, better service. M-Pesa is expensive, try sending any amount over 2,500.
- If.. no sorry, when Equity partners with Airtel, and they are sharing network costs (with the other 2 new networks) they might hopefully roll out the fastest 3G+ (or is it LTE) network across the country. I am currently struggling to work from home, I can’t access the internet in Utawala. It’s like some kind of black hole there. Unless I work from outside the house, that is just not feasible at night. Even during the day! Anyway, if they do roll out a reliable internet connection (maybe via fibre optics, then supply broadband to our homes, the possibilities are endless), at this point, I will be begging them to shut and take my money!!
And finally, Zioncell and Mobile Pay, who are you people? What is your target market? I can’t wait to find out. Can you image having a choice of 6 telecom companies?