Rob Shuter (centre). Picture: THE TIMES
Rob Shuter (centre). Picture: THE TIMES

MTN suffered a 1.5% decline in its total subscriber numbers to 237-million in the first quarter of 2017 from 240-million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

"While our reported subscriber numbers are lower than we had expected, this is largely the result of an ongoing review of subscriber definitions. We are planning to further modernise our internal subscriber definitions to more closely align with the changing mix of revenue streams and will report on this at the end of the first half of 2017," MTN CEO Rob Shuter said in the quarterly update released on Wednesday morning.

Its South African subscriber base fell 1.7% to 30.2-million in the March quarter from 30.8-million in the December quarter, with prepaid subscribers falling 2% to 25-million and postpaid, or contract, subscribers falling 0.5% to 5-million.

"While subscribers declined in the quarter as a result of traditional seasonality, we remain committed to our net additions guidance of 630,000. We are encouraged by the progress made in our relationship with our franchise channel and this, together with the ongoing systems and process improvements, should drive continued improvement in the customer experience," Shuter said.

Its average revenue per user (Arpu) from its South African subscribers fell 1.8% to R90.88 a month in the first quarter from the previous quarter, but was 9.4% higher than the first quarter in 2016.

The average monthly cellphone revenue from prepaid users fell 8.65% to R70.83 over the three months while postpaid Arpu fell 9% to R149.58.

"In SA, we are making progress in tackling our underperformance in the postpaid segment although it will take time for this to reflect in our financial performance," Shuter said.

MTN’s sharpest drop was in Ghana, where subscriber numbers fell 13% to 17-million over the three months to end-March.

"This was impacted by the review of subscriber definitions resulting in the disconnection of 3.4-million subscribers. After adjusting for these, net additions in the quarter were 893,000," MTN said in the update.

Nigeria, MTN’s largest market, suffered a 2.3% drop in subscribers to 60.5-million in the March quarter from 62-million in the December quarter.

"This was impacted by new regulations that require all subscriber connections to take place in permanent brick and mortar structures. This led to a marked reduction in gross connections across the industry. MTN Nigeria has also continued with the process of excluding subscribers whose only activity is receiving incoming SMSes."

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