- Internet subscriptions decline
Recovering from the impact of a four-month SIM activation ban, mobile network operators in the country gained 3.8 million new subscriptions between June and September, New Telegraph has learnt.
According to the latest industry statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), active subscriptions across the four GSM networks of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile increased to 190.5 million at the end of September.
The September data showed that the operators are steadily regaining their lost customers after the government’s policy on SIM registration caused them to lose over 20 million subscriptions between December 2020 and May 2021.
Active mobile subscriptions across the four networks, which stood at 207.5 million as of November 2020, had plunged to 186.6 million by May this year. According to the NCC’s data, Globacom emerged as the highest gainer of new subscriptions in the four months. The telco’s subscriptions jumped from 49.7 million in May this year, to 52.9 million, indicating an increase of 3.1 million.
Airtel added one million new subscriptions in the pe under review to record 51 million active subscriptions at the end of September. 9mobile also gained 140,658 new subscriptions to maintain its position as the fourth operator with 12.9 million total subscriptions.
However, MTN, which is the largest operator by subscriber number, lost 477,761 subscriptions within the four months. The loss, it was gathered, may not be unconnected to the deactivation of improperly registered SIMs on the network. This brought MTN’s total active customer database to 73.5 million from 74 million in May.
With the growth recorded by the operators, the country’s teledensity, which measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living within an area, also increased to 99.98 per from 97.98 per cent recorded in May this year. According to NCC, the teledensity is calculated based on a population estimate of 190 million.
While the operators had gained more subscribers, subscriptions for internet across the networks remained down. According to the NCC’s data, internet users on the four mobile networks stood at 140.5 million.
By September, the internet subscriptions database stood at 140.3 million, indicating that the operators had lost 200,000 subscriptions in the period under review. Meanwhile, the operators continued to gain more revenue from data subscriptions despite the decline in subscriptions.
According to them, the increase in revenue is driven by the increase in data consumption by the customers. Between June and September, MTN and Airtel raked in a total of N227 billion as revenue from data. Although voice revenue for the two operators was higher than that of data, the growth rate of data revenue is far higher than voice.
While MTN, for instance, recorded a 5.6 per cent growth in voice revenue for the quarter, data revenue increased by 57.3 per cent. Similarly, on the Airtel network, voice revenue for the period grew by 27.1 per cent, while data rose by 41.5 per cent.
Specifically, MTN’s data revenue for the third quarter stood at N137.7 billion compared with N87.5 billion recorded in the same period last year. Airtel over the same period recorded N89.5 billion ($179 million) data revenue compared with N67.5 billion ($135 million) it recorded in the same period last year.
Commenting on the company’s data revenue performance for the quarter, the Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola, said the growth was driven by the increase in data consumption by Nigerians and the expansion of its 4G network across the country.
“Data revenue rose maintained an accelerated growth trajectory in Q3 as we continue to drive increased data conversions from the existing base, aggressively expand 4G coverage and enhance the capacity of our network to support increasing data traffic,” he said.
According to him, the average megabyte (MB) per user rose by 58.2 per cent year-onyear, enabling overall data traffic growth of 85.5 per cent YoY. “Also, smartphone penetration on the network grew by 3.5pp to 48.7 per cent. Our 4G network now covers 69.2 per cent of the population, up from 60.1 per cent in December 2020,” Toriola added.
Airtel Nigeria also disclosed that its data revenue growth was driven by the growth in data usage per customer to 3.9 GB per month (from 2.7 GB per month in the prior period). “This, in turn, drove data Average Revenue Per User (APRU) growth of 41.4 per cent.
Expansion of our 4G network, with 88.8 per cent of total sites now on 4G, and an increase in smartphone penetration further supported the growth in data usage,” said Airtel Africa CEO, Segun Ogunsanya.