Safaricom’s share of mobile subscribers fell to 63.5 percent in the full year ended June, making it the lowest market share it has recorded in the last decade as rival Airtel steadily won over its customers.
The latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows that although Safaricom has the highest number of subscribers at 31.8 million, its voice market share and overall customer base has been shrinking over the years.
Safaricom’s market share last year was 65.4 percent.
Airtel, on the other hand, has increased its subscribers by 3.1 million to 12.8 million in the full year to June, with its market share climbing to 24.6 percent, its highest ever.
The last time the telco’s market share was this low in the full-year was the 2011/12 period when it was at 64 percent.
The rise in the number of Airtel subscribers comes at the back of sustained cheaper tariffs by the Indian-owned operator in a year when it launched the lowest call rates in a promotional offer that intensified its onslaught on Safaricom.
Airtel in December last year launched a two-month promotional tariff that allowed its customers make calls at the lowest industry rate of Sh1 per minute to all other networks and free on-net calls over the holidays.
Airtel also posted the fastest growth in voice traffic as it increased the talk-time on its platform by nearly 10 percentage points while Safaricom shrank the total number of minutes spent on voice calls by 3.4 percentage points.
During the period under review, Airtel grew its total voice calls by 73 percent to 21.5 billion minutes for both on-net and off-net calls, underlining preference by callers for cheap tariffs that have increased pressure on Safaricom to lower prices.
Telkom Kenya, the telco with the third highest market share, are in the process of merging their its operations with Airtel.
The move, if successful, is expected to increase competition for Safaricom.