Goh Thean Eu
Digital News Asia
1 March 2017
2016 was an exciting year indeed for the mobile telecommunications industry in Malaysia. There were changes in leadership — in terms of subscriber market share, as well as appointment of a new CEO by one of the incumbents.
The year also saw the mobile operators increasing their focus on capturing market share and competing intensely in the postpaid market.
To illustrate the competitiveness of the industry: During early 2016, Celcom launched its Celcom First Gold whereby it gives 10GB of mobile data quota (5GB for weekdays, 5GB for weekend), unlimited call and text, for RM80 a month. Today, the same plan is offering 20GB of data (10GB weekday, 10GB weekend). The similar “offer more data for the same price” strategy has been adopted by other mobile operators as well.
So, how did these mobile operators performed in 2016? Did their aggressive push in customer acquisition hurt their bottom-line? Did the mobile users increase their data consumption significantly? Did Maxis ended 2016 as the country’s top mobile operators in terms of subscriber base? Was it a forgettable year for Celcom? Did Digi became number one? These will be addressed in this article.
The year when Digi overtook Maxis
In 2016, Digi achieved something that seemed impossible at one time. It overtook Maxis and Celcom to become the country’s largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers.
It started the 2016 as the country’s third largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers with 12.13 million subscribers or 32.7% market share, slightly behind Celcom’s 12.25 million subscribers and Maxis’ 12.69 million subscribers.
Today, Digi has led the market with a 35.3% market share. Celcom, a wholly-owned unit of Axiata Group Bhd, was the biggest loser, as it lost 1.7 million customers in 2016.
In fact, it is the only mobile operator among the Big 3 that managed to register an increase in its overall subscriber base in 2016.
Oh no Celcom, what happened?
A look at the 2016 prepaid subscribers data showed that Digi remained the Prepaid King for two consecutive years.
In fact, it managed to further extend its prepaid leadership from 35.1% market share in 2015 to over 38% in 2016.
Celcom, which was the Prepaid King in 2014, was having a very bumpy 2016. Its market share is now at 28.4%. The decline was mainly driven by two reasons: the lack of competitive product, and distribution issues.
Axiata Group Bhd president and chief executive officer Jamaludin Ibrahim said that Celcom now has a competitive product offering, and will be focusing on solving distribution issues this year.