Internet demand is slicing into networks’ voice revenues as adult South African cellphone owners increasingly adjust their budgets for data use.
The Mobility 2012 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank, shows that the proportion of the average user’s cellphone spend on data has increased by half in the past 18 months – from 8% of budget at the end of 2010 to 12% in mid-2012.
Spending on voice has dropped from 77% to 73% in the same period – precisely matching the difference in data spend. Meanwhile, SMS spend remains steady at 12%, and full music tracks feature for the first time – taking up 1% of the average spend on a cellphone.
“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,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.
The biggest increases in specific uses of data on the phone were seen in instant messaging services, with more than a fivefold increase in the proportion of BBM users in the past 18 months – from 3% to 17% of adult cellphone users living in cities and towns – and WhatsApp emerging from nowhere to claim a quarter of adult cellphone users.
Browsing on the phone also increased substantially, from 33% to 41% of users, app downloads rose from 13% of users to 24%, while Facebook use rose by more than half, from 22% to 38%.
“The findings represent powerful backing for our strategy of providing banking services across new channels and platforms like FNB.Mobi, Facebook and the apps environment,” says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO, FNB Cellphone Banking. “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.”
Proportionally, the biggest growth after BBM was seen in the Twitter user base, which rose from 6% to 12% of adult cellphone owners.
“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 project comprises two reports, namely The Mobile Consumer in SA 2012, comprising cellphone usage and banking trends, and The Mobile Internet in SA 2012, exploring online and data trends. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South African adult cellphone users living in cities and towns, conducted in June 2012.