For the first time in Vodacom’s history, the number of SMS and MMS messages sent by the mobile operator’s South African customers has declined, information accompanying its interim results for the six months ended 30 September 2012 shows.
Vodacom saw just over 3bn messages sent during the period, down by 7,2% from the 3,27bn sent in the corresponding period in 2011 and the 3,2bn sent in 2010. The operator counts SMS, MMS and premium-rated messaging together, but excludes bulk messages.
At the same time, its voice revenue growth slowed to 1,5% in the six-month period compared to the same period a year ago, but data traffic grew by by 42,5% during the period with the revenue for it increasing 13,5%.
In a conference call on Monday morning, Vodacom group CEO Shameel Joosub said the South African operation turned in “good set of numbers, particularly at the profit line”. Revenue growth was 3,7% for the period, due in part to increased smartphone sales. The operator added 1,4m smartphones during the period, bringing the total number of smartphones on the network to 5,3m.
There were also now more than 250 000 tablet computers active on the network. Smartphones accounted for 20,3% of handsets and the average data use per customer increased by 46% year-on-year to 128MB/month.
Although competition heated up during the period, Joosub said Vodacom “took commercial actions that supported stable voice growth”. Nevertheless, effective revenue per minute was down by 5% for the period across prepaid and contract customers combined.
A full 18% of service revenue was accounted for by data and Vodacom saw a 27% increase in active data customers, taking the total number of data customers to more than 13m. More customers are buying data bundles, too, with an increase of 35% in bundle buyers during the period.
Joosub said the company committed R3,2bn to capital expenditure during the period, much of which went into increasing and improving network coverage. Vodacom now has more than 5 500 3G-enabled towers and more than 9 000 that support 2G. The company also has 200 sites that support long-term evolution — or next-generation mobile broadband — and expects to grow this to 500 by the end of the year.
“We anticipate low single-digit growth in the medium term,” said Joosub. “We aim to grow [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] ahead of service revenue.”
However, the CEO cautioned that shareholders needed to be “realistic” as the group faced “regulatory and economic challenges”.
He said that although competition was fierce, there was “still room to grow customers”, especially in international markets where penetration was low. “Data is an opportunity in all markets”. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media