The Mobile Phone, an Extension of One’s Self

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How often have you heard people saying…“my whole life was on my phone!” when something happens to their mobile phone? This is because these devices have become an extension of who a person is. Mobile phones may “all look the same” but no two phones have the same content. It’s almost like twins. They may look alike but they each have their unique set of characteristics that make them separate individuals.

Smartphones, with their vast capabilities, have the greatest form of personalization. The ability to download almost any app of your choosing may contribute to the creation of a stronger bond between a person and his/her mobile. The growth in smartphone usage and app culture brings with it the growth in mobile data traffic.

Mobile data traffic is set to increase from 37 500 terabytes in 2013, to 764 000 terabytes monthly in 2019. This is a twenty-fold growth within a space of just six years. The increasing consumer usage of social media platforms that not only accommodate text; but photos, music, video etc., is contributing to the surge in data traffic. With voice and traditional text messaging revenue expected to decrease over the years as people look to things such as VoIP services as primary communication choices, the rising data revenue is a welcomed change by operators.

Unfortunately, the data revenue currently received by operators is not a true reflection of what is truly owed to them. The threat of OTT players such as WhatsApp and Facebook are real. For example, WhatsApp (one of the leading social media platforms in Sub-Saharan Africa) upgraded its offering by adding WhatsApp Caller. This means that traditional voice consumers using the app now have the option of bypassing operator voice costs. These cases have a direct impact on operator ARPU levels. Mobile operators throughout the region are looking at ways of sustaining and growing their subscriber base in the face of this threat. In South Africa, Cell C recently announced their partnership with Facebook. All Cell C subscribers now have access to free Facebook on their network. Airtel Nigeria also has in place a similar strategy by partnering with WhatsApp.

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