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SA mobile users shift from voice to data

South African mobile phone networks are seeing call revenues declining for the first time in their histories as the younger generation leads the consumer charge into a “new data economy”, according to a new study from research company World Wide Worx.

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World Wide Worx’s “Mobility 2014” study, released last week, reveals that the 19-24 age group, representing students and entrants into the workforce, is abandoning calls faster than any other segment.

“Only 56% of this group’s cellphone budget is now spent on calls, down from 66% in mid-2012,” the company said in a statement. “Data spend, on the other hand, [on text messaging and internet surfing and downloading] has increased from 17% to 24%.”

The study is based on face-to-face at-home interviews conducted in late 2013 with 1 200 South Africans, aged 16 and up, in urban and rural areas across the country.

It found a dramatic shift in the trend for the overall market, with call spend dropping from 73% of cellphone budget to 65%, while data spend increased from 12% to 16%. At the beginning of 2010, calls stood at 77% and data at 8%.

Spending on text messaging remained steady at 13%, while spending on downloading music tracks, which featured for the first time in 2012, doubled from 1% to 2% of the average mobile phone budget.

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“Older users continue to spend far more overall, but the powerful shift in spend from voice to data will work its way up the age segments in the coming years,” World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said in a statement.

“Already, we are seeing a flattening out of the curve of data use from the 25-34 through to the 46-55 age groups. Only above that age does data spend drop off – but not very significantly.”

Read more: South Africa Info

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