Understanding what is happening in ICT in Mozambique

Francisco Mabila
Executive summary

The growth of the ICT sector in Mozambique is driven by the economic development trends that characterise the country today, with special emphasis on so-called“mega-projects”and the exploitation of the newly discovered mineral and energy resources. The demand for telecommunications services has been growing rapidly, both at the corporate and individual levels. This situation offers excellent business opportunities for telecommunications operators in terms of both network infrastructure development and service deployment in the regions of the country that have been poorly served in the past.

The entry of the third mobile operator (Movitel) in 2011 shook up the market, leading to lower prices, better voice and data coverage, and higher traffic volumes. With the new entrant in operation, a significant price drop in the market was expected, but the reductions were not as large as predicted, especially regarding broadband internet (Movitel has adopted a very similar pricing strategy to the other two operators).

While Movitel is busy expanding network coverage and mobile market leader Mcel is trying to use all possible means to keep its top position in the market, Vodacom Mozambique is still struggling to become profitable (the company has been investing continuously in network expansion and modernisation over the last few years).

Mozambique’s telecommunications market is changing very quickly. While the fixed segment remains, in real terms, a monopoly of the incumbent Telecomunicações de Moçambique (TDM), the mobile sector has become very dynamic since the new player Movitel entered the market (its first full year of operation was 2012). Mobile penetration in 2012 was 48% while fixed teledensity was at 0.38%.

The ICT Policy (Politica de Informática) is 12 years old and needs to be reviewed in order to align national priorities with the new developments in the ICT sector and other global trends. The Instituto Nacional de Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação (INTIC, the National ICT Institute) has yet to organise the necessary policy review process, despite the fact that the matter has been repeatedly mentioned as one of its priorities. The reasons for this delay are unknown.

The telecommunications regulatory environment is improving due to the efforts of the regulator, the Instituto Nacional das Comunicações de Moçambique (INCM, the National Communications Institute of Mozambique), to fill legislative gaps and, to some extent, enforce existing legislation. A considerable number of regulations have been produced during the last few years. Currently the Telecommunications Law from 2004 is under review.

The review process began in 2012 and is driven by the INCM. However, the fact that the Telecommunications Law (“Lei das Telecomunicações”) is being reviewed prior the review of the ICT Policy (“Politica de Informática”) means that there may be discrepancies between the objectives of the two documents. The expected key innovations in the Telecommunications Law include introduction of a unified licensing regime, provision for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and, more generally, focus on stimulation and promotion of greater competition.

Unlike at the time of the previous Research ICT Africa (RIA) Mozambique Sector Performance Review (SPR) in 2010 when there was much controversy among the operators and the INCM regarding interconnection termination rates, the new agreed termination rates are symmetrical and will decrease gradually from the MZM1.99 in 2013 to MZM0.86 in 2015.

Following global trends, internet access in Mozambique is shifting from PC to mobile connections. This is the result of technological advances enabling the provision of cheaper mobile handsets and other mobile devices that run internet applications, coupled with improved operator access to international bandwidth (through the SEACOM and EASSy submarine cables).

However, the price of broadband internet continues to be prohibitive for individual users. Fixed-line ADSL broadband is therefore only used by (a small number of ) corporate entities. Prepaid mobile internet, for 1GB and 5GB bundles of data, is cheaper than both prepaid and postpaid ADSL packages of the same size. RIA’s 2012 data for Mozambique, generated through the 2012 RIA Mozambique Household and Individual ICT Access and Use Survey, indicates that in Mozambique, 68.7% of individual users rely on mobile phone handsets to access the internet, 56.8% rely on 3G dongle modems, 10.6% use wireless broadband (TDM’s WiMAX) and only 3.9% use ADSL connections.

The number of households with a working telephone line is extremely small. The 2012 RIA ICT Survey found that only 0.39% of households have a working fixed line, while 42.5% of individuals (aged 15 years and older) own a mobile phone. According to the INCM, the total number of active SIM cards in 2012 was 8 804 986, which constitutes 38.2% of the population.

The cost of access remains one of the major limitations for internet use: the 2012 RIA Survey indicates that 52% of respondents find the use of internet “too expensive” and only 11.1% use it.

Despite the relatively fast growth of TV broadcasting in Mozambique, radio continues to be the most-used ICT resource for mass communication. Radio is attractive, particularly to people living in rural areas, because of, inter alia, its wide geographical coverage, its low-cost receivers (compared to TV sets), its provision of content in numerous languages, the relevance of its content and its low power requirements (significant given limits in coverage of the national electricity grid). The 2012 RIA Survey found that radio listeners account for 53.8% of the population while those who watch TV are 43.3%.

Other emerging media resources are social networking applications, where Facebook leads (used by the 58% of internet users); only 64.36% of internet users have an email address.

Mobile money is still in its embryonic stage, with only 0.2% of the population having used mobile money in 2012. Both Mcel and Vodacom offer mobile money, via their mKesh and M-Pesa products respectively. Meanwhile, mobile banking is provided by Banco Internacional de Moçambique (BIM) and Banco Comercial e de Investimentos (BCI). Other banks are offering basic online operations while positioning themselves to implement mobile banking platforms.

Suggested citation

Mabila, F. (2013). Understanding what is happening in ICT in Mozambique (Evidence for ICT Policy Action). Research ICT Africa. https://researchictafrica.net/publication/understanding-what-is-happening-in-ict-in-mozambique/