Up to 1.2 million new subscribers migrated to Airtel in the second quarter of the current financial year following the decision by NASA coalition to boycott Safaricom services, according to a report published by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
The migration which was spearheaded by NASA President Raila Odinga marked the biggest three-month rise in subscribers recorded by any GSM firm in Kenya in recent years.
The CA report shows Airtel recorded a 20 per cent increase, pushing up the overall number of mobile subscribers in Kenya to 42.8 million.
The period under review – October to December 2017 – was also marked by intense political activity following the disputed General Election that saw many firms report depressed business activity.
Leading mobile services provider Safaricom especially faced a challenge when it was put on a boycott list by the Opposition alongside several other firms.
The bump in subscriber figures widened Airtel’s market share to 17.2 per cent from 14.9 per cent recorded during the previous quarter.
Conversely, Safaricom’s market share reduced marginally to 69.1 per cent from 71.9 per cent, even as the number of its subscribers rose by 73,800 to sit at 29.5 million.
This suggests that the majority of Airtel’s 1.2 million new subscribers did not discard their Safaricom lines but may have stopped using the firms products.
Airtel recorded an increase in mobile voice traffic with a total of 2.5 billion minutes during the quarter, up from 1.9 billion previously. This saw its market share expand by 4.6 per cent to 22 per cent.
The latest industry report comes in the wake of revelations that Airtel and Telkom Kenya are mulling plans to merge their operations after years of mounting debts.