South Africa MNO - MVNO Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 - 2026)

The South African MNO - MVNO Market is Segmented by Deployment (Cloud and On-premise), Operational Mode (Reseller, Service Operator (MNO), Full MVNO, and Other Operational Modes), Subscriber (Enterprise and Consumer), and Application (Discount, Cellular M2M, Business, Media and Entertainment, Migrant, Retail, Roaming, and Telecom).

Market Snapshot

Study Period: 2018 - 2026
Base Year: 2020
CAGR: 7.8 %

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Market Overview

The South African MNO - MVNO market is expected to register a CAGR of about 7.8% during the forecast period (2021-2026). In an increasingly digital world and fragmented telecommunications industry, MVNOs are on the rise, applying emerging technologies, exploring new verticals, and providing value to both consumers and existing mobile network operators (MNOs). In recent years, competition in the South African MNO - MVNO market has shifted from pricing to value-added services and product differentiation, owing to the prominence of MNOs in the low-cost cellular services market in both developed and developing cities of South Africa.

  • The growth of the South African MNO - MVNO market is expected to be attributed to the entry of new players and the roll-out of new services. Initially, the roll-out of 5G was delayed due to the government’s reluctance to allocate the radio frequency spectrum required for the mass-rollout of 5G. For instance, Vodacom and MTN have stated that they were about to launch large scale 5G networks during 2019 but have been restricted by a lack of access to the necessary radio frequency spectrum.
  • However, in August 2019, the South African government promised a policy direction for 5G technology in 2020.
  • The first licenses to mobile network operators (MNO) that will allow them to build large scale 5G cell phone networks in South Africa are expected to be released during 2020. Presently, many trials being conducted in the country with respect to the deployment of 5G technology, which would allow MVNOs to prosper in the country.
  • However, most of the MNO and MVNOs leverage on the low-cost model to gain customers. There is a low-profit margin in this market because the vendors offer cheaper rates to consumers by renting spectrum from major carriers. MVNO players are functioning as wholesalers, who purchase bandwidth in chunks from the big carrier networks and sell at a discount to consumers. This factor is expected to impede the growth of the market throughout the forecast period.
  • To ensure business continuity owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, business organizations, especially in highly affected states of South Africa, are allowing their employees to work from home (WFH). The increase in people working from home has led to an increase in demand for downloading, online video viewing, and communication through video conferencing, all of which are leading to increased network traffic and data usage.
  • Generally, customers cannot complete a ring when they are on zero credit balance, that applies to a significant number of South African population at various times of the day or month, which is expected to be the scenario to even more people as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In April 2020, Cell C Limited and Starlogik alliance had launched “StarCALL,” which is a free ping service for customers with zero credit balance. The solution will help millions of African customers to be connected at the time of critical situations.

Scope of the Report

The South African MNO – MVNO market has driven by the increased demand in the wide range of applications, like retail, cellular M2M, and media and entertainment. The scope of study on South Africa MNO - MVNO market is organized to track the adoption of telecommunication services based on operational modes, such as reseller, service operator, and full MVNO. The study also focuses on the existing vendor landscape of mobile network operators and MVNO vendors and their offerings.

Operational Mode
Service Operator (MNO)
Other Operational Modes
Cellular M2M
Media and Entertainment

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Key Market Trends

The Full MVNO Segment is Expected to Hold a Significant Share During the Forecast Period

  • The major driver for the penetration of full MVNO in the country is the rolling out of 5G and increasing support from South African regulatory bodies. For instance, in November 2019, the South African communications regulator, ICASA, proposed to increase the total spectrum made available to mobile operators from the current 566MHz to 958MHz. Moreover, those who receive this spectrum must provide open access to a minimum of three MVNOs.
  • Vodacom Group is expecting to launch 5G services to its South African customers by the end of 2020, using a network being built by another African operator Liquid Telecom.
  • Rain South Africa (Rain), a mobile start-up with an exclusive focus on data services, launched South Africa's first 5G network in selected suburbs in Johannesburg and Tshwane during September 2019. Rain intends to expand its 5G coverage area to Durban and Cape Town in 2020.
  • However, the full MVNO segment is facing slow growth in recent years. One of the reasons for the slow growth of MVNO in the region is because of unfair pricing for network access from large network operators. However, the competition authority has ordered mobile network operators to reduce roaming fees, including those of MVNOs, which is another driving factor for the market.
  • Cell C Limited is the only mobile network operator in South Africa, which has opened its network for MVNO partners. It offers all the necessary support, expertise, infrastructure, and platforms to allow MVNOs to operate. With the expansion of its offerings for the MVNO vendors will help the company to gain a competitive edge over its competitor MNOs.
SA Telcos.PNG

The Consumer Segment is Expected to Grow at a Significant Rate During the Forecast Period

  • The increasing number of single mobile subscribers and increasing penetration of mobile in emerging economies are the major factors fuelling the segment growth. According to the GSM Association, in 2019, the smartphone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa was 45%, and it is expected to reach 67% by the end of 2025. This growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has driven by the increasing smartphone penetration of South Africa.
  • Traditionally, B2C or consumer segment dominated over B2B part regarding innovation and pricing. Billing a wide range of devices and managing them is significantly difficult than a simple consumer service. Due to convenience and more profit margin, MVNOs also prefer investing in the consumer segment.
  • Moreover, the telecom sector in the region is experiencing an improved market condition in the near term. For instance, Cell C Limited has observed 15.9 million subscribers at the end of its last financial year, 1.9 million are from its MVNO partners.
technology migration.PNG

Competitive Landscape

The South African MNO - MVNO market is moderately competitive and consists of a significant number of regional players. These players hold a large share in the market and focusing on expanding their client base across the regions in the country. These players are focusing on the investment in introducing new services and solutions in the country and other related growth strategies to increase their market share during the forecast period.

  • In February 2019, King Goodwill Zwelithini, JR Capital, and a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE) partnered to create a new mobile network, called Bayede Mobile, in South Africa. It will run as a MVNO on an existing local mobile network of Cell C Limited.
  • In November 2019, Clientèle, a financial product and services company, introduced Clientèle Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service that promises data and airtime at discounted rates. Available to anyone living in South Africa, the service is offered through an undisclosed “leading” network provider, and it has plans to add more services over time.

Table of Contents


    1. 1.1 Study Assumptions and Market Definition

    2. 1.2 Scope of the Study




    1. 4.1 Market Overview

    2. 4.2 Market Drivers

      1. 4.2.1 Increasing mobile network subscribers and increasing penetration of mobile devices

      2. 4.2.2 Increasing demand for efficient cellular networks

    3. 4.3 Market Restraints

      1. 4.3.1 Increasing government pressure and rising competition levels results in less profit margin

    4. 4.4 Market Opportunities

    5. 4.5 Industry Value Chain Analysis

    6. 4.6 Porters 5 Force Analysis

      1. 4.6.1 Threat of New Entrants

      2. 4.6.2 Bargaining Power of Buyers/Consumers

      3. 4.6.3 Bargaining Power of Suppliers

      4. 4.6.4 Threat of Substitute Products

      5. 4.6.5 Intensity of Competitive Rivalry

    7. 4.7 Impact of COVID-19 on the South Africa MNO-MVNO Market


    1. 5.1 Deployment

      1. 5.1.1 Cloud

      2. 5.1.2 On-premise

    2. 5.2 Operational Mode

      1. 5.2.1 Reseller

      2. 5.2.2 Service Operator (MNO)

      3. 5.2.3 Full MVNO

      4. 5.2.4 Other Operational Modes

    3. 5.3 Subscriber

      1. 5.3.1 Enterprise

      2. 5.3.2 Consumer

    4. 5.4 Application

      1. 5.4.1 Discount

      2. 5.4.2 Cellular M2M

      3. 5.4.3 Business

      4. 5.4.4 Media and Entertainment

      5. 5.4.5 Migrant

      6. 5.4.6 Retail

      7. 5.4.7 Roaming

      8. 5.4.8 Telecom


    1. 6.1 Company Profiles

      1. 6.1.1 Cell C Limited

      2. 6.1.2 MTN SA

      3. 6.1.3 Telkom SA Ltd

      4. 6.1.4 Vodacom Group Limited

      5. 6.1.5 Virgin Mobile South Africa (PTY) Ltd

      6. 6.1.6 MRP Mobile

      7. 6.1.7 FNB

      8. 6.1.8 iSmart (Pty) Ltd

      9. 6.1.9 The Unlimited

      10. 6.1.10 PSB Network

    2. *List Not Exhaustive


**Subject to Availability

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Frequently Asked Questions

The South Africa MNO - MVNO Market market is studied from 2018 - 2026.

The South Africa MNO - MVNO Market is growing at a CAGR of 7.8% over the next 5 years.

Cell C Limited, Vodacom Group Limited, Virgin Mobile South Africa (PTY) Ltd, iSmart (Pty) Ltd, The Unlimited are the major companies operating in South Africa MNO - MVNO Market.

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