Africa recorded a 33 percent increase in cellphone subscriber numbers in the past 12 months while fixed infrastructure roll-outs remained stagnant.

The International GSM Association presented its latest findings at the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecom Africa conference held in Egypt yesterday.

Unlike South Africa, where cellphone penetration is at about 90 percent , only 282 million people out of Africa’s 922 million total population have a cellphone.

However, the number is rising sharply as operators ramp up their investment in GSM and other mobile technologies in the continent’s less accessible regions.

Tom Phillips, chief executive of the GSMA’s government and regulatory affairs officer, said: “Africa’s mobile industry is delivering on its promise to blanket the continent’s inhabitants with coverage, giving tens of thousands of people their first opportunity to realise the substantial social and economic benefits of mobile communications.

‘‘However, more than 300 million rural Africans do not yet have mobile coverage. They live in an area the size of China, India and the US combined.

‘‘Developing sustainable business models to serve these communities is a great challenge, which requires the industry and African governments to work together.”

Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN, operates in 21 countries in emerging markets, most of which are in Africa.

The company has been a target for a potential takeover by Indian telecommunications company, Bharti Airtel.

The latest reported takeover offer of R175 per share (the current share price stands at R158) is thought to be lower than what MTN is expecting.