Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Profiling the South African Mobile Phone User

A South African research company has profiled mobile phone subscribers and divided into six categories - the Grassroots, Lizards, Playas, Magpies, Sophisticates and Elephants. The Mobility 2006 research project aimed to determine the usage habits of South African mobile phone users to develop clear market segments, says Peter Searll, head of Dashboard Fast Forward Research. A sample of 1152 cellphone users from eight provinces excluding the Northern Cape from all income groups and races ensured that the population was representative, he says. "The size of the sample and he extent to which it was representative of all South Africans enable us for the first time to produce a clear distinction between different categories of user," Searll says.

Grassroots users

The most obvious difference between all the categories is in the amount of money they spend on their mobile phones every month, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

The difference also lies in the likelihood that they have monthly contracts with a cellular service provider he says.The company conducted the research in partnership with Dashboard Fast Forward Research. Searlle says while the Grassroots mobile phone users account for 45% of the market in size, they only spend R109 per month and account for 24% of the total market spend.

The group is strong in rural areas, earn low income and have low levels of education. The majority of grassroots spend is on voice and SMS, with no data use, he says. “There is a clear need to develop voice application for grassroots users to deepen their cellphone usage,” Searle says.

The Lizards The Lizards almost fit the same profile as grassroots users, except for the fact that they are bargain hunters with no loyalty to their service provider, he says.

They are therefore likely to switch networks within the next couple of months, and are likely to buy a cellphone starter pack for the airtime, he says.


The research characterizes Playas as youthful, tech savvy and more urbanized than Grassroots and Lizards.

These users also download content at a high rate, with 11% of them joining a subscription service, Searll says.

This group would rather get a free gift than a free cellphone, and would love to get TV on their cellphones, he adds. The Magpies The Magpies, who are young and love anything that shines with bells and whistled on, spend the same as Playas, the report says.

At R158 spend they spend slightly less than Playas. However, a higher proportion of Magpies are on contract, and they love to use the gadgets on their phones such as camera and watching TV, Searll says.

The Sophisticats

Sophisticats, who are slightly older than Playas, are the highest Internet users, with 90% of them having Internet access at home or at work.

They also command a high demand for TV on the cellphone, he says.

The Elephants

The Elephants make up 9% of the cellphone population and account for 33% of market spend, Searll says. They have no patience to learn new applications and no interest in watching TV on their mobile phones, he says. He adds that 99% of Elephants have contracts, with 25% of these contracts likely to be paid for by the employer. Elephants have not made purchases on the cellphone, he notes. Please Note: $1 =about R7.00 at the time of publication.

Damaria Senne is a journalist and author based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She writes about the telecommunications industry in South Africa and Africa, including cellular, mobile and wireless technologies and messaging news and trends. She regularly interviews executives of multinational companies expanding their business into Africa, as well as government officials and regulators in the African communications market.

Read her business related articles at itweb.co.za

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