Telecommunication companies (telcos) in Africa’s biggest economy recorded an addition of 9 million new internet subscribers in the first five months of the year, the latest data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have shown.
The telcos saw the number of their internet subscribers rise to 150 million in May 2022 from 141 million in December 2021, according to the NCC.
On a year-on-year basis, the number of internet subscribers declined by nine percent (about 13 million subscribers) in the period under review due to the government’s suspension of SIM registration and activation between December 2020 and April 2021.
The growth recorded during this period, however, continued on the back of the NCC’s lifting of the prohibition on new card sales and activation after a temporary halt on sales to allow for the National Identification Number (NIN) and SIM linkage.
MTN Nigeria, the largest operator by the number of subscribers, maintained its position as it gained 4.2 million new internet subscribers, bringing its total subscription base to 63 million.
Airtel overtook Globacom in the period under review to become the second-largest operator in terms of internet subscriptions. The telco added 3.8 million subscribers, which brought its total internet subscription to 41 million.
Globacom gained over 380,000 new subscribers, bringing its total subscription base to 39.9 million. However, 9mobile’s internet subscription saw the number of its internet subscribers drop to 5.3 million as it lost 374,000 in the five months.
Broadband subscriptions, which show the number of subscriptions to fixed and mobile broadband services, rose to 83.3 million in May 2022 from the 78 million recorded in December 2021. This brought the country’s broadband penetration to 43.6 percent, up from 40.8 percent at the end of last year.
Nigeria is looking to achieve 70 percent broadband penetration by 2025. However, given the modest pace of new connections, experts say the broadband target seems ambitious. They said the country needs higher capital investment to be able to achieve its broadband penetration plan.
To peers, Nigeria’s broadband penetration lags that of South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya, with penetration rates of approximately 113, 74, and 48 percent respectively, according to data from the International Telecommunication Union.
In the broadband plan document, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration results in about 2.6 percent to 3.8 percent growth in GDP.
The NCC data show the contribution of the telecoms industry to GDP increased from 12.61 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 14.5 percent in Q1 2022. The broadband plan, which intends to cover 90 percent of the population, will deliver 25 megabits per second (Mbps) in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas.
The commission said: “Rapid rollout of broadband services will address various socio-economic challenges faced by the country, including the need to grow its economy, create jobs, rapidly expand the tax base, and improve digital literacy and educational standards.
“This will also address identity management and security challenges through the effective use of technology, increase financial inclusion and deliver a broad range of services to its people to improve the quality of life and work towards the attainment of Social Development Goals set by the UN for 2030.”
The country’s teledensity increased from 102.4 percent in December to 107.17 percent in May 2022. Teledensity is calculated by the number of fixed (landline)