February 14, 2017 / 6:53 AM / 5 months ago

Tanzania's mobile phone subscribers up 0.9 pct in 2016

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DAR ES SALAAM, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Tanzania, east Africa's second-biggest economy, posted a 0.9 percent annual increase in the number of mobile phone subscribers in 2016 to 40.17 million, its telecoms industry regulator said on Tuesday.

Mobile phone use has surged in Tanzania and other African countries over the past decade, helped by the launch of cheaper smartphones.

The number of Internet users rose to 19.86 million last year from 17.26 million in 2015, the state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said in a report.

Mobile money users grew to 18.08 million last year from 17.63 million previously.

Telecommunications is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country, which has a population of around 50 million.

Mobile phone operators in Tanzania include Vodacom Tanzania, a unit of South Africa's Vodacom, Tigo Tanzania, which is part of Sweden's Millicom, Bharti Airtel Tanzania, and Halotel, owned by Vietnam-based telecoms operator Viettel.

The country's three biggest mobile network operators - Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel - are planning for initial public offerings (IPOs) on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) this year to comply with a mandatory listing law.

The government hopes the move will bring more transparency and offer the public a share in the industry's profits.

But analysts say rushing through public offerings could lead to unsold shares with only Tanzanians allowed to buy them.

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Aaron Maasho and Amrutha Gayathri

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