New Telegraph

MTN, Airtel generate N208bn from data in 3 months

Internet consumption increases by 41%

Two leading telecommunications operators in the country, MTN and Airtel, raked in a total of N208.3 billion from data subscriptions between March and June this year, New Telegraph has learnt. According to their financial records, the two operators recorded a significant increase in data revenue despite a decline in the number of data users within the period. According to the operators, while government’s policy on new SIM at that time led to a decrease in data subscriptions, the existing subscribers spent more on data within the period to drive increase in revenue.

The number of internet subscriptions for both MTN and Airtel as of June this year stood at 59.5 million and 36.2 million respectively, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). In June 2020, internet subscriptions on both networks stood at 60.6 million for MTN and 37.6 million for Airtel While the subscriptions declined compared to last year, data revenue for the two operators increased compared to the same period last year.

Specifically, MTN realised N122.7 billion from data in the second quarter of 2021, which is 53.6 per cent increase compared to N79.9 billion it recorded in the same quarter last year. Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr. Karl Toriola, explained that the continued growth in data revenue was driven by increased usage from its existing customer base. He said this was supported by the acceleration in 4G rollout and enhanced network capacity following the acquisition and activation of an additional 800MHz spectrum in Q1. According to him, data traffic on the network also rose by 83.0 per cent year-on-year “We have a clear focus on sustaining double-digit service revenue growth ahead of inflation, driving 4G and rural network expansion, as well as positioning our fintech and digital businesses for accelerated growth in order to unlock their full value.

“In addition, we will continue to sustain our expense efficiency programme to strengthen our financial position and support margins,” Toriola said. Similarly, Airtel generated N85.5 billion ($171 million) between March and June this year. This represents a 40.5 per cent over N61 billion ($122 million) it realised in the same period last year, according to the financial record released by the company’s parent body, Airtel Africa. Airtel, in the financial report, also declared that “data revenue continues to be the key driver of Nigeria revenue growth, with constant currency revenue growth of 48.8 per cent.” This, the telco said, was driven by a 45.1 per cent growth in data Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). According to the telco, the data ARPU increase was boosted by the increase in data usage per customer.

The operator disclosed internet usage per month on the network increased from 2.7 GB per month last year to 3.8 GB per month as of June this year. This showed a 41 per cent increase in data consumption by Nigerian subscribers. Highlighting efforts that led to the increase in data usage, Airtel said: “We continue to focus on increasing smartphone ownership and increasing data usage at scale, largely via smartphone offerings through OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) device partnerships, and through expanding our network of smartphone device selling outlets.

“Our improved 4G network contributed to an increase in smartphone penetration, in data customers and in up-take of large data volumes, resulting in greater data consumption per customer.” Meanwhile, industry analysts said that rapid increase in data usage as opposed to voice calls may also be connected with the proliferation of Over the Top Services (OTTs) such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Wechat and IMO, among others, through which subscribers can make voice and video calls using their data subscriptions. Before now, the telcos had complained bitterly about the operations of the OTTs in Nigeria, saying that they are eating deep into their voice revenue. However, the telecoms regulator, NCC had countered them, noting that the OTTs are driving data revenue growth for the operators since a subscriber would have to pay for data before making calls over any of the platforms.

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