File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - Africa’s largest cellular network by subscribers, MTN, has been awarded the accolade of being named Brand of the Year in the telecommunications category at the World Branding Awards in London.

The 21-year-old operator has now joined an elite group of household brands such as Apple and Coca Cola.

MTN, which was birthed in 1994 with the liberalisation of SA’s communications sphere - a move that marked the entry of cellphone companies Vodacom and itself into the telecoms sector - has often been hailed as a truly successful South African story.

The operator, which has 231 million subscribers in 22 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, was one of more than 2 500 brands nominated from 35 countries for the awards.

Only 119 brands were selected as the winners in their respective categories, and MTN emerged as the only brand in the telecommunications sector that qualified to receive this award.

However, MTN has been taking financial strain as operators continue to battle against dwindling voice revenue, which is not being offset by increased data use, as data offers lower margins.

In the six months to June, the company reported subscribers up 3.4 percent, but revenue - on a reported basis - declined 4.9 percent to R69 billion as foreign exchange effects hampered income. Stripping out currency fluctuations, revenue would have grown 0.7 percent.

On a normalised basis, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation lost 4.2 percent to R30.3 billion, and its operating margin also slowed.

MTN says in a statement issued Friday that the award is “testament to the work that has been done by our colleagues, employees and partners in building our brand”.

Winners of the World Branding Awards are judged on three variables, namely brand valuation, consumer market research and public online voting.

The award follows the #1 Most Valuable Brand for 2015 accolade that was conferred on MTN by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation and ratings firm, earlier this month.

IOL