The LG V30

The Uganda communication commission (UCC) the legal telecom regulatory authority responsible for issuing licenses to all telecom companies previously released the total registered SIM card holders per network legally authorized to provide voice and data services to the general population. To a greater extent UCC’s two month ultimatum that was later extended by Government earlier this year to switch off all unregistered SIM cards greatly impacted the market trends where many telecom companies were unable to validate customer credentials due to various miscommunications with the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), a move that forced some many existing customers to shift to the competitor networks.

According to the statistics from UCC, Out of the 32 million registered SIM cards, MTN Uganda takes the lions’ share at 56% with over 18 million registered SIM. This comes as no surprise since the company has over the years maintained its position as the market leader in the sector.

After the acquisition of Warid Telecom, Airtel Uganda became the second “power-house” as the leading market follower, with 31% SIM cards registered on their network. Airtel Uganda has always enticed customers with give back promotions and favorable rates — that in return many subscribers have opted to have Airtel as their second SIM thus the popularity of dual-SIM phones in Uganda.

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Africell and UTL Take the third and fourth place with 11% and 0.7% registered SIM on their networks respectively.

Number of SIM subs in Uganda
Uganda sim registration statistics


The serious contenders (1% and below)

SMART telecom was launched a few years back now has over 113,000 (0.4%) subscribers. K2, Vodafone SMILE and Tangerine share the remaining 0.9 percent of SIM card registration due to late entry into the industry and some have dominated due to their ability to target a specific niche market within the sector. The trend of telecom companies in Uganda is somewhat unpredictable since the more technology advancements (3G, 4G and other value added services), the more subscribers demand for low cost voice and data rates thus creating a vacuum that can only be filled by either adopting low cost strategies of differentiation in voice and data packages.

For example a few people knew about Tangarine’s 4G LTE service until recently.  This is a telecom company that recently launched in Uganda but has not marketed out its offers to the public compared to

Tangarine One of the most promising ISPs

other carriers that dominate the media with product promotions. With less publicity, and also being able to have a total of 2,722 subscribers implies that many customers (most probably via Word of Mouth) know about Tangerine’s favorable rates and are willing to pay less for better services thus a potential threat for the market leaders.

Let’s not for get Roke Telkom, given that their services don’t require SIM cards they also take up a sizable chuck of data subscribers in areas where they have coverage.

On the other hand Smile telecom one of Uganda’s most trusted ISP’s registered over 19,809 SIM cards which is quite a very big difference from the market leaders. K2 popularly known as the official line for Buganda Kingdom with its mother network (MVNO) being Africell, registered over 81,904 SIM cards and continues to scramble of the central region market where it has loyalty within the Kingdom territory.

Ever since Vodafone’s launch in Uganda, there was a lot of excitement among customers given its promos with lots of device and data deals every year over 62,998 subscribers managed to register their SIM cards. Vodafone has of late deployed a long term strategy of targeting the youth and Gen Xers, whether that will pay off is a story for another day.

The UCC statistics don’t bring any surprise figures especially with the top four carriers that dominate the telecom market. One starts asking questions with the number of SIM registered by the bottom 1% telecom companies. The statistics however do not give the full picture of the entire telecom sector, as they eliminate companies and ISPs that use other means to provide data services to the masses like Roke Telkom’s WiFi and dedicated Microwave internet and current ongoing Zuku Fiber roll-out.

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