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The African mobile market has been said to be the fastest growing industry in the world, and is the second largest in terms of volume, beaten only by Asia.
The number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20% each year over the past five years, and it is expected that there will be more than 735 million subscribers by the end of 2012.
African mobile market penetration reached 649 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2011. That is equivalent to a 65% penetration rate. Out of every 100 people, 65 have some form of mobile connectivity.
The Kenyan government's abolition of the 16% general sales tax on mobile handsets in 2009 has resulted in handset purchases increasing by more than 200%. Leading operator Safaricom in Kenya made almost 30% of its revenue with non-voice services in 2011/12.
Nigeria represents the highest number of mobile phone subscriptions in Africa - more than 93 million, representing 16% of the continent's total mobile subscriptions.
Using dual carrier DC-HSPA+ technology, up to 42Mb/s are currently being offered by 3G mobile operators in Africa. The continents first commercial LTE 4G networks have been launched in Angola, Namibia, Mauritius and Tanzania, with South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt expected to follow soon. Problems with frequency spectrum allocation have delayed commercial LTE services in some countries.
The arrival of low-cost smartphones, locally manufactured in Ethiopia for example, has lowered the barrier of entry to the internet market for African consumers.
South Africa's leading operator Vodacom has seen the number of smartphones on its network grow at almost twice the rate of 3G USB modems, reaching a combined total of more than six million or 20% of the subscriber base in early 2012. Average smartphone data usage almost doubled in the past year to reach 92MB per month.
For more information on the African mobile market, see the latest research: African Mobile Market Report
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