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May. 22, 2018

Ghana is leading the region in all things telecommunications. With increased interest in the country by major international telecoms providers and investors, the future for the industry is bright.

Ghana played a pioneering role for the continent when the internet first arrived in Africa. Since the early days, the country has significantly grown its telecommunications infrastructure and provision, becoming one of the most advanced countries in the region with more options and more companies vying for market share in an increasingly competitive market.

Following the creation of the National Communications Authority in 1997 and a series of deregulations, competition flourished in the local telecommunications industry, which has driven Ghana to become one of the most advanced in the region with one of the highest penetration rates. Competition has primarily been centered around the mobile phone market. Though advanced, Ghana is still in need of improvements to its network capacity; as such, several international investors have been implementing massive investment programs in the country as a result of its deregulated market and constantly increasing demand for data. Ghana now has several operators in the country leading this charge and reaping the benefits. The market in Ghana, as well as the region, is dominated by several international brands, such as Aritel, Tigo, MTN, Vodafone, and Glo, all of which have set up local branches or subsidiaries.
The South Africa-based MTN is the market leader in the country, claiming nearly half of the market share. With more than 17.5 million subscribers, MTN has a market share of approximately 48%. Next in line is the UK's Vodafone, with 22.1% of the market share and just under 8.1 million clients. The Luxembourg-based Tigo and Indian Aritel rank third and fourth, respectively, with Tigo's share at just under 5.3 million or 14.4%, and Aritel's at 4.7 million or 12.8%. The remainder of the country's operators claim less than 1 million subscribers.
The national subscription and penetration rates have been only increasing over the past decade. According to the National Communications Authority of Ghana (NCA), mobile subscriptions reached 36.6 million in 2Q2016, up from 36.1 million the previous quarter and 32.4 YoY. The net additions growth rate actually sat at -58%. During the previous quarter, the net additions growth rate declined by 35%. These falls come in the wake of a massive 350% growth rate in 2Q2015. The rate of increase of mobile penetration has slowed as well. From the first to second quarter of 2016, penetration increased by just 0.9% to 131.9%. This follows recent penetration rates of 119.4% in 2Q2015, 112% in 3Q2015, 127.6% in 4Q2015, and 131% in 1Q2016. Mobile data penetration made big increases up until 2016, but the momentum seems to have dwindled since. From 2Q2015 to 1Q2016, the number of mobile data subscriptions increased nearly 2 million, to 18.7 million, equal to a penetration rate of approximately 67.8%. Moving on to the second quarter of 2016, while the number of subscriptions increased by 100,000, the penetration rate actually fell by 0.2%.
In terms of market share for mobile data subscriptions, the country's major providers' rank slightly differs from mobile subscriptions. MTN takes up exactly half of market share, followed by Vodafone with 17.4%, Aritel with 16.3%, and Tigo with 14.5%. Many investors are eying mobile data as the future for not only Ghana, but also much of the continent. Fixed-line penetration, which remains low, is likely to reduce even further, with almost no emphasis on improving its penetration by the government or investors. By 2020, analysts expect to see at least 75% of all mobile connections on LTE technology. In Ghana and the region, revenue is expected to grow immensely.
In late December 2014, Ghana again showed itself as a leader in the region when it announced it would begin a high-resolution earth-observation SAR satellite program. The Gulf-based MENASAT entered into a joint venture with the Ghana Space Science Technology Institute to develop the program, which will launch the country's first SAR high-resolution satellite. The Ghana Sat 1 will be assembled largely with Africa-made parts, and is currently equipped with a USD250-million price tag. The JV hopes to eventually bring in revenue through value-added services to the national and regional governments, as well as sales of images. The goal is to finish building the satellite within five years in order to make the hoped-for 2020 launch date.