Kenyans Used SMS More Than Voice Calls Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

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Kenyans apparently used short text messages (SMS) more to communicate in the last three months to June than voice calling. This was in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced lockdown and economic difficulties prompting consumers to focus on essential spending.

This was revealed by the new report from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA). The data shows that the number of SMSs in the second quarter of 2020 soared to 19.5% to 20.09 billion from 16.8 billion sent in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, voice traffic declined 0.9% to 15.2 billion minutes in the same period. Interestingly, this coincided with the expiry of airtime discounts offered by telcos.

According to the CA, the expiry of these calling promotions in May resulted in a drop in voice traffic. This prompted Kenyans to turn to SMSs which are cheaper amid the economic standstill. This is actually more evident when it comes to individual network operators.

Safaricom PLC, for instance, faced the biggest decline from 10.05 billion minutes to 9.15 billion minutes. This is in so much contrast to Airtel and Telkom that actually saw a rise in their respective voice traffic. This is associated with the high call rates that Safaricom holds in comparison to the other two competitors.

In fact, CA attributed the decline in overall voice traffic to the fall in call times by Safaricom subscribers. This is alongside the COVID-19 restrictions that it says altered calling patterns and business activities as firms cut operating hours in compliance with the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

However, Safaricom still dominated the SMSs segment with 19 billion texts accounting for 95% of the market. This was followed by Airtel with 901.47 million SMS or 4.5% of the market and Telkom Kenya accounting for 83 million texts or 0.4% market share.

“In addition, it is worth noting that SMS communication is popular among the young population who have been actively at home following prolonged closure of educational institutions in response to Covid-19 safety measures.” states the report.

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