New Telegraph

MTN, Airtel realise N123.8bn from data subscriptions in 3 months

•Voice revenue plunges

Two leading telecommunications operators in the country, MTN and Airtel, raked a total of N123.8 billion from data subscriptions between April and June, New Telegraph has learnt. According to the financial records of the companies released recently, the period, which also marked the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria witnessed a surge in data usage by mobile subscribers. The number of internet subscribers for both MTN and Airtel as of June end stood at 60.6 million and 37.5 million respectively, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This showed that the two operators accounted for 98.1 million out of the total 143.7 million internet subscriptions in the country as of June this year.

Specifically, MTN Nigeria generated N79.9 billion from data subscriptions within the three-month, which reflected a 40.9 per cent growth on its data revenue year-on-year. MTN’s data revenue for the same period in 2019 stood at N56.7 billion. Airtel Nigeria also recorded a 39.7 per cent year-on-year growth in data revenue as it generated N43.9 billion ($122 million) for the quarter ended June 2020. The telco’s data revenue for the same period last year was N31.6 billion ($88 million), according to the financial record released by the company’s parent body, Airtel Africa.

While Airtel managed a marginal growth in voice revenue for the quarter under review, MTN’s record shows a decline in voice income, reflecting a shift in telecoms consumer usage of voice calls to data. Airtel’s voice revenue for the period stood at N70.9 billion ($197 million), a 6.9 per cent growth from N66.6 billion ($185 million) recorded in the same period last year. MTN, on the other hand, posted a 0.90 per cent decline in voice revenue over the same period.

The telco’s income from voice stood at N174.6 billion, compared with N176.2 billion recorded in the same period last year. The rapid increase in data users as opposed to voice may not also be unconnected with the proliferation of Over the Top Services (OTTs) such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Wechat, IMO, among others, through which subscribers can also make voice and video calls using their data subscriptions. MTN’s financial record also showed a plunge in SMS revenue as it generated N1 billion from the service in the three-month compared with N3.4 billion it recorded in the same period last year.

This, however, may not be unconnected with the telco’s offer of free SMS to its subscribers as part of efforts to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians. The free offer, which ran from April to June, the same period covered by the financial record,saw the telco gave out 10 SMS per day for free and 300 per month to all its subscribers. As of mid-June, the telco announced that a total of 925 million SMS valued at N3.7 billion had been sent for free by its subscribers. Earlier in April while several businesses closed shops due to the COVID-19 lockdown, telecommunication was the only active business that kept others running from home. Based on that, industry analysts had predicted that the pandemic situation was an avenue for the service providers to get returns on their huge investments in 4G, as demands for data was expected to rise.

The operators had also at that time of the lockdown pledged their commitment to getting people connected during the crisis, while noting that the deployment of 4G across the country would help Nigerians at the time when most people would rely on the internet for their businesses and communications. Speaking on the importance of data connection during the lockdown, the President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Mr. Rudman Mohammed, said the Internet, now more than ever, had become the best platform for all to conduct their businesses.

“Whether it is buying and selling, service provision, education or governance, online interactions have become imperative in a world which is battling one of the most pervasive epidemics in recent times. “Any business that knows its onions will recognise the times and ensure that they can be found online, with their business conducted, payments made and feedback provided virtually,” he said.

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