Vodafone, Zain, MTN, Tigo, Glo Mobile and their competition in Ghana

Vodafone, Glo, Zain, Tigo and MTN meet compete Ghana
Vodafone, Glo, Zain, Tigo and MTN compete in Ghana. Image edited by Oluniyi David Ajao.

With the entry of international telecoms giant Vodafone into the Ghanaian telecoms industry, things would never be the same again. Matter-of-fact, the telecoms industry is very exciting at this time because Ghana is the meeting point of some African and international telecoms giants: MTN, Tigo, Vodafone, Zain, and soon-to-launch Glo Mobile. The main thrust of my writing at this time is to highlight their recent efforts to sign-on new customers and keep existing ones.

Zain Ghana; a loud entry, a sophisticated network

It all started with the entry of Zain in the 4th quarter of 2008. Zain had already done their homework very well and launched a very sophisticated network. They have the financial muscle to announce their new brand loudly and they did that with maximum effect. Before then, no operator had given MTN Ghana (the present market-leader) serious competition like Zain has. Zain launched the first 3.5G network (supports very fast Internet connectivity, video calling etc) in Ghana and MTN was scrambling to catch-up. Though Zain’s 3.5G network is presently limited to Accra, Tema and Kumasi, EDGE (faster than GPRS) is available where their 3.5G doesn’t cover. Perhaps it is an endorsement of the quality offered by Zain that makes it the fastest growing network in Ghana today. Zain presently has in excess of 1 million subscribers, according to media reports. I did a comparative analysis of Zain and MTN at Mobile Africa, a few months ago.

The latest stunt is their “Live Your Dream” promo, that is offering various cash rewards to subscribers. The aim – from my point of view – is to get subscribers to use more and more airtime thereby driving Zain’s revenue upwards. The biggest of the cash rewards is a whopping GHc75,000 (about US$50,000).

Vodafone Ghana; a migration to excellence, an obscene promo

Vodafone is widely known to be a world-class telecommunications company. One can only expect the very best from them, following their take-over of Ghana Telecom and its Onetouch subsidiary. Vodafone also made a lot of noise with its launch into Ghana earlier this year. They announced having made improvements to the cellular and fixed line networks before launch. I am unable to verify their claims as I do not use Vodafone’s mobile service. The service from the Vodafone fixed phone I use has remained the same. Their tagline after re-branding into Vodafone is “A network that works” – obviously in an effort to woo subscribers who are fed-up with poor services from other cellular networks. Vodafone is also growing fast and report to have added 800,000 more subscribers to their network.

The latest stunt from Vodafone is something I consider obscene.

Vodafone Ghana Launches Biggest Promo Ever
21 July 2009

Vodafone has launched the biggest promotion ever in the history of telecommunications in Ghana for its prepaid mobile and land line users.

The 1 million dollar* grand prize comprises of a 4-bedroom fully furnished Trasacco Valley house, a Mitsubishi Pajero 4X4 vehicle with a complimentary driver for 3 months and 12 months free high speed Vodafone Broadband internet connection plus land line.

Vodafone customers also stand the chance of winning a Mitsubishi Pajero 4X4 vehicle, Yamaha DT 125 Motorcycles, 2-year educational scholarships, Dell Inspiron laptops, Vodafone branded iPod Shuffles, Vodafone branded phones and loads of bonus airtime in two random draws, which will be shown live on TV.

The promotion, called “Vodafone Rewards”, is Vodafone’s way of saying “thank you” to all its valued customers for continuing to use its products and services.
*emphasis mine

One cannot help but conclude that this is a direct response to Zain’s Live Your Dream promo. Both promos are similar but that of Vodafone is on a much larger scale.

MTN Ghana; scrambling to stay on top

MTN has always been a market leader in Ghana. From when the network was branded Spacefon, Areeba and finally MTN, they always stood out with their wide network coverage and numerous value-added services. Being the first digital cellular network in Ghana, the high quality offered by their GSM technology attracted many people to them. Scancom Ghana Limited (the company behind MTN in Ghana) is one of the biggest companies in Ghana and their cellular network has the most subscribers.

MTN has been very busy since the entry of Zain and Vodafone.

  • MTN has since launched a new network code to enable them add more subscribers
  • launched a 3.5 network that allows fast Internet and video calling
  • launched “seamless roaming” – a service that allows free roaming into Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon for MTN Ghana subscribers
  • launched a web recharge service
  • launched a Mobile TV service in collaboration with DSTV that is still in the test phase
  • and would be rolling-out a money transfer service known as MTN MobileMoney, today 22nd July 2009.

MTN has not announced any plans for a promo but I bet they will do so soon if history is anything to go by.

Tigo Ghana; the 4th factor?

Tigo grew out of Mobitel Ghana. Mobitel is the first cellular network in Ghana. It launched way back in 1992. As a result of their slow innovation, Spacefon (now MTN) that launched in 1995 seized the baton from them. Tigo played second fiddle to MTN for years. With the entry of Zain and Vodafone, I suspect that Tigo is now playing “4th fiddle”.

Their TV ads have increased drastically and they make noise about being a network that actually works. They have promos that encourage old subscribers to get back on board and another that offers 10 to 20% discounts on call rates to faithful subscribers.

Glo Mobile Ghana; delayed, charged for action

Glo is a market leader in its home country – Nigeria. Glo revolutionized the telecoms industry in Nigeria with lower tariffs and even more value-added services. Though they won a licence through a closely-contested bid to run a cellular network over a year ago, their roll-out in Ghana had been delayed by bureaucracy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Having obtained the clearance to erect radio masts from EPA recently, I am sure they are constructing their masts across Ghana, aggressively. Despite their achievement in Nigeria, I am sceptical about how they can make headway in Ghana since the market is already heavily dominated by international giants. One trump card Glo Mobile Ghana has is their parent company’s submarine cable (Glo-1) that links West Africa to the UK. It promises gigantic Internet bandwidth. Can they translate this gold mine into cash? Time will tell.

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Oluniyi D. Ajao
Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.


  1. More GSM service providers may still enter Ghana market. We have MTN,Glo, Zain, Etisalat, Starcomm, Visafone, Multilinks… in Nigeria.

    But we still pay a very high tariff. Calls , SMS and Internet services are still on the high side.

    Their promo hype may attract GSM users but what happens to customer satisfaction?

    Pls tell MTN & GLO to go for satisfaction first before thinking of expansion.

  2. Or they did. It seems I’ve lost my number now as I didn’t topup every 90 days. Bummer.

    “After 90 days in the inactive mode, your number will be deactivated and deleted permanently from our system. You will lose your number and any credit you have on your prepaid account at the time of deletion. Unfortunately, it is not possible to reinstate your number once it has been deleted.”

  3. I used MTN when I was in Ghana but I will quickly switch to Vodafone the minute I go back because I use Verizon (the Vodafone equivalent) here in the US which is hands down the best cell phone company you can get so I know what they are capable of… I think. Well see 😮

  4. Funny how things work.. not so long ago one has to pay bribe to get a Sim card or pay about $200.00 to get a vodafone Sim card, not to mention the ridiculous dingy Internet cafes that one is forced to access in other to surf the web.. i know this first hand, i was one of the suckers who dished out this amount just to get connected with a mobile phone.
    to be honest with you i am quite happy about the pressure competing companies are applying to each other, for starters it will mean quality service at a lower cost. Above all Ghana stands to win big through taxation. Who says free market economics don’t work. way to go Ghana, keep it up.

  5. These are big financial muscles indeed. I am actually wondering if the National Stabilization Levy of 5% extra tax will affect the operations of these giants? I think it certainly will!!!!

  6. Edward,

    The tax benefits are multiple, we cant even begin to identify it all, taxation on handsets, taxation on personal revenue by virtue of selling phone cards, income tax from employee and employers, surcharge on calls, i am sure Ghana is laughing all the way to the bank. believe it or not at one time when vodaphone use to be onetouch one has to pay a bribe just to get the sim card…i see progress, way to go Ghana.

  7. Great write up bro,

    But I think your filla on Tigo was scanty. You could do more to enrich your write up. May be next time it will be great to do more contacts in order to have detailed information on all sectors.

    As an advise you can always use statistics. As it stands now Tigo is still the second mobile network according to available statistics in my possession but you seem to errornesously create the impression that they are struggling at the 4th position.

    Bring up your write up next time.


  8. Hi Dave,

    At the end of June 2009 %shares among the telecos were
    MTN = 56.9%
    Tigo = 19.8%
    Kasapa=8.4% and
    Zain = 2.9%

    Though as the years go by positions may change but it is important to give the picture as it stands now. Indeed Vodafone seem to have the capacity and the opportunity to move to the second position in the very near future. One thing we need to realise is that the promotions and the loudness with which one enter the Ghanaian market does not guarantee you a great Market share in terms of subscribers.

    Take care and hope to be reading more articles on your bloc. Thanks

    • Joby, thanks for your information.

      With the entry of Zain and Vodafone, I suspect that Tigo is now playing “4th fiddle”.

      My opinion of Tigo was based on suspicion only. Your comment only means Tigo is still playing second fiddle and even that position is seriously threatened by Vodafone. 😎

      • Dave,where did you get ur figures from. From the NCA statistics, Zain’s customer based passed that of Kasapa from as far back as January ’09.

        Please look at your stats again.


        • Yaw, thanks for your feedback. I did not quote any figures in my article. I believe you are referring to Joby’s comment.

          Joby if you are reading, could you please provide the source of your figures and date of those figures so we can have a better context?

          Yaw (works with Zain Ghana) is clearly disputing your figures.

  9. Yaw,

    the basis of my statistics is from a marketing intelligence organisation, AC Nielsen, and that was as at June ending;so you can let me know when Zain by passed Kasapa and from which source.


    • Joby, Zain passed Kasapa has far back as Jan 2009. My source comes is NCA and inside knowledge.

      “Ghana ended January’09 with an active subscriber base of 11.96 million. The statistics issued by National Communication Authority (NCA) revealed that the number of mobile subscription grew by 16.8% from December’08. MTN topped the chart with 6.6 million subscribers, holding 55.1% of the total subscriber base, followed by Tigo with a subscriber base of 2.8 million or 23% of the total. Vodafone secured third position with 1.7 million subscribers or 14.5% of the total base. Zain Communications, which launched operations a month back, through its pre-registration and “You Pay Zain Pays” promotion, has within one month gone past Kasapa with 463,824 subscribers representing 3.9 per of the total with Kasapa still trailing with 386,732 subscribers, representing 3.2 per cent. NCA statistics further unveil that the mobile penetration in Ghana reached 98% in January’09.”

  10. May be we need to wait for the next statistics from NCA since comparing Jan’09 statistics and June’09 statistics may be like comparing groundnuts to maize. And let’s not forget that you could by pass another network in a promotion and fall behind again if a study is done 5 months afterwards.


    • You are probably right. Anyway, I got these numbers from a friend in our Marketing dept as detailed below:

      MTN – 6m
      Tigo – 2.3m
      Vodafone – 1.7m
      Zain – 1.1m
      Kasapa – 350 thd

      Please note that I can vouch for only Zain figures which are based on the Revenue Generating Events of the subscribers active on the network.

      I agree with you 100% about Tigo.
      It’s a dynamic industry…. for instance Vodafone claims to be the network that works and Tigo responds by claiming to be the network that actually works by showing a fat bloke wearing Vodafone colours falling off a tree in an attempt to listen to a call. MTN joined the circus by showing tigo and Vodafone sleeping in class in their latest advert.

      I’m looking forward Tigo & MTN response.

  11. Yaw, I think you are right when you say we should wait for any reactions from MTN & Tigo and I believe we have also enriched David’s write up by the figures we have produced so far. In any case the only difference between us is the position of Kasapa & Zain which I will believe your position since you work at Zain and should have access to internal data.

  12. Hi Dave, dont u think it will be a good idea for the national communication authority NCA to monthly or quarterly publish the tarrif of the networks, just as the interest/lending rate of the banks is public knowledge. I think it will seriously take the competition to a different level. they should consider these.

  13. Hi dave, please I have tried several times to install/download a adobe flash player for my samsung x820, but all attempt was unsuccessful. i want to know if it is compatible with mobile phones and can u help me out? THANKX R S V P

  14. I have a question for anyone that can help me.I an in the united States and I would like to buy a wireless cell phone for a friend of mines in accra ghana for his bithday without him knowing.So this phone I need to buy he need to be able to have a ghana number and still be able to use it while in the united states to call home as well to check his family when he comes to the state. Is there anyone that can help me with this question. Thank you so much

    • Iam trying to purchase a phone from the USA to be used there in Accra for someonelse and I need information as to how to go about it. I have a sprint account and would like to add another line with a Interantional data plan to support the second line. any suggestions on this idea would be welcomed

  15. Oluniyi and other Guru,

    I am really interested in telecomms market in Ghana. I find interesting that Vodafone has bought into Ghana rather than another West African country etc Nigeria, Mali.

    Have thingss change since Vodafone launched their broband service? Have they gone up in the ranks? Could Vodafone be number 1 mobile service provider in Ghana?

    • I do not use Vodafone Mobile in Ghana but I noticed their increased awareness drive on their Internet offering. I am assuming they have improved their services. Their 3.5G network is still being implemented. Therefore, Vodafone offers mobile internet via GPRS unlike MTN and Zain who offer fast internet connectivity via 3.5G

      Vodafone number 1 mobile provider in Ghana? That’s a tall order considering the large lead of MTN and the aggressiveness of Zain not to talk of glo that is coming soon.

      Other to the gurus. 🙂

  16. it very annoying when sometimes you call MTN and Onetouch numbers in Ghana from abraod
    The line is very poor and sometimes espaecially MTN tells you that you dont have credit though they are not your service provider. Onetoch and MTN this is a shame.if you want to compete on the market do something about this poor service.

  17. if at this point zain ghana can not be precise about her market share in ghana market, then, i think her promotional campaigns were flops. so she should devise a better promotional strategy to march the competition in the industry.

  18. I think tigo has to make their network universal to all places in ghana because rural areas are NOTgeting full services from their network.

  19. I think mtn should trust their network.I mean in all their services. Especially the GPRS. Coz we are tired of NW unavailable

  20. please where is your office that operating in ghana now i will help glo to paints ghana green GLO RULE YOUR WORLD

  21. I realy love when other people talk of have many network provider not like us in cameroon wit only 3network and high terrif and poor services and network so what is the solution to this prob and will be glad if somebody can help me wit a code or manuel to make free calls or sms or phone internet

  22. With the launch of Vodafon’s 8 pesewas per minute call rate to all networks I expect the long awaited price war in Ghana’s telecom industry to start as this will force more MTN subscribers to switch to Vodafon. I expect MTN and the others to react by reducing their call rates to maintain their market leadership position or they risk losing their grip on being the market leader in Ghana. I hope the pricing war will force the network operators to charge as little as 3 or 4 pesewas for calls in Ghana. Currently, Ghana is one of the most expensive counties to use a mobile phone and internet services.

  23. @ Robert

    i donthink, the Telecos will compete below GH8p, they can agree to battle on the other 3ps. However, i was informed that, the cost of production for the airtime is GH 7ps, i therefore dont envisage the price moving below that. Except the giants in the industry milk from their cash cows. I belive Vodafone and Zain are already doing that.

    Again, look at the reaction of the industry leader’s MTN and
    follower Tigo,they are cautios about price, they prefer to give bonus than reduce the price. Lets see how it unfolds!

  24. how do u leverage software buildups on the current economy of ghana, please i would be highly peasured if you give me more infomaton on this matter. thank you.

  25. […] the entry of international telecoms giant Vodafone into Ghana in 2009, the telecoms space has been heated up and Millicom International Cellular (MIC) S.A., the […]

  26. it is evidently clear that GLO is not going to disappoint us as the other telecommunication service providers in Ghana have disappoint us.

    what assurance will management of glo Ghana give to ghanaians that they will not allow complacency to find it way into their service provision?

    what other motivation will you give your customers?

    wish you all the best with your stay in Ghana.

  27. Well I Don’t seems to understand Tigo i used it for my researching and studying at home and at college .But these days when i connect my tigo it appear edge Tigo what is wrong??

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