Mobile phones have over the last couple of years, overtaken the usage of fixed-line telephones, something that has also contributed to people favouring instant messages over making calls.

Last year Telkom had 3.4 million fixed lines around the country, but according to the latest results documentation, the company shed around 200 000 fixed-line customers in the last year, taking that figure down to around 3.2 million fixed lines.

The rise in popularity of mobile phones, together with the relatively cheap cost of making a call, also contributed to there being fewer payphones.

To put that into perspective, Telkom’s annual report for 2015 states that it had around 42 000 payphones still in operation. But according to this year’s result, that figure has dropped by 40%, down to 27 000 phones.

The annual decline of payphones around the country.

To further drive that thinking, Telkom added a hefty amount of people to its mobile subscriber network. In 2015 it had around 2.1 million mobile subscribers, but in the annual results for this year, the figure jumped by 27% to 2.7 million. In case you were wondering, just under 2 million of those are pre-paid customers.

People are also making more calls, or at least making contact with more people – the average revenue per user has increased to just over R51 per pre-paid user, which is an increase of 37% when compared to last year.

“The mobile business has been a star performer over this phase reducing its EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation) loss from R2.2 billion three years ago to R43 million this year. Since the fourth quarter, the mobile business has been showing sequential break-even on a monthly basis,” Telkom said in a statement.

But if more customers start making use of a different service, the less popular one might become obsolete – and Telkom wants to at least manage the decline of fixed lines.

“The fixed-to-mobile substitution continues and we are managing the decline in voice through offering bundled products and migrating customers from traditional voice to data-based products, which has seen a reduction in the accelerating negative growth experienced in recent years,” it said.

We are surmising that in the next five years or so, payphones will be a thing of the past. Mobile phones are becoming so much cheaper by what seems like the month, and data access and talk time is also becoming more affordable.

Who knows, at this rate the transition to a fully mobile world might come sooner than we think.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Dave Bledsoe]


Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.