How voice, internet subscriptions benefited from COVID 19

Economic activities in the 36 states and FCT appear to be picking up following a noticeable growth in voice and internet subscriptions in the last twelve months. The non-pharmaceutical measures such as lockdown and social distancing implemented last year pushed some individuals and firms online. Many private organisations and government agencies implemented work at home policy. While majority have resumed to their work places, some organisations are still implementing that policy.

The above development reflected in Nigeria’s voice subscriptions which increased by 10.78 percent as of December 2020 to 204.6 million active lines from 184.69 million in corresponding period in 2019. Also, internet subscriptions rose by 22.38 percent in 2020. From 126.08 million active lines as of December 2019, the demand for data services across the country pushed the nation’s internet subscriptions to 154.30 million by December 2020.

Generally, the surge in active voice and internet subscriptions has been attributed to Covid 19, but looking at the state by state growth, there are different underlying factors that best explain the unique growth pattern in each state.
For instance, the highest growth in voice subscriptions among the states took place in Edo State in 2020 where voice subscriptions rose by 87.7 percent. Within twelve months in that state, 3.31 million new active lines came on stream to make the total active voice subscriptions by December 2020 in that state at 7.09 million from 3.78 million in December 2019. Are we surprised by this development? Not really.

The current administration in Edo State has implemented programs aimed at boosting internet usage in the state. One of such programs is the Edo Jobs which is a portal for connecting unemployed youths in the state with employers of labour. As a digital platform, only those with active voice and data services could benefit from the information released on the portal. At the end of the first term in office, Edo Jobs facilitated the placement of 156,994 unemployed youths with different organisations. If you are an unemployed in Edo State, you will look for ways to get your active voice line so that you do not miss out when employment opportunities are announced on the platform.

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Another factor was the election that took place in the state last year. The electioneering period was laced with tensions, brickbats, which made social media platforms the battle fields as information that was true, untrue and outright lies inundated the social media space. And no one wanted to be left out.
‘’The government of Edo State has done so much in connecting the rural communities. Consequently, everyone is now willing to have voice and data subscriptions. Again, election was held last year, in which every eligible voter actively participated through calls, sharing messages, videos and other information ensuring that the current administration was re-elelcted”, said Ukinebo Dare, head, Edo Jobs.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja witnessed 58 percent growth in voice subscription from 5.70 million as of December 2019 to 9 million in December 2020. In other words, additional 3.30 million active lines came on board in 2020 in Abuja. A likely reason for this development is the migration of Nigerians from North West and North East to the FCT following renewed onslaught on people by bandits and insurgents.

Benue State recorded 50.5 percent growth in voice subscription as 1.69 million active additional lines came on stream. This could be interpreted as the gradual restoration of peace in the food basket of the federation. Delta State was in the news for good as 2.21 million lines were added to 4.7 million lines as at December 2019 to have 6.91 million active lines as at December 2020, representing an increase of 47.14 percent.
Others in the top ten highest growth states included Yobe, 34.7 percent; Zamfara, 34.7 percent; Sokoto, 28.2 percent; Anambra, 24.1 percent; Gombe, 21.4 percent and Katsina, 19.9 percent.

In terms of concentration of active lines, 10 Nigerian states accounted for over half of the active voice subscriptions in Nigeria. They are Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Oyo and FCT. Others are Kaduna, Rivers, Edo, Delta and Niger states in that order. Out of 204.6 million active voice subscriptions in Nigeria, the top ten states accounted for 105.7 million lines representing 52 percent of the active lines in Nigeria. By December 2019, there were 90.6 million active lines among the aforementioned states representing 49 percent of the 184.7 million active lines in the country as at that time.
The states that witnessed the least growth in voice subscription are Ekiti, Enugu, Cross River, Bayelsa and Ebonyi.

Interestingly, no Nigerian state recorded a negative growth rate in internet subscription in 2020. The highest growth rates were in Yobe, Sokoto and Zamfara which grew by 49.12 percent, 45.93 percent and 37.93 percent respectively whereas the least growth states in internet subscription was in Rivers, Lagos and Abia at 15.54 percent, 13.68 percent and 12.59 percent in that order.

When internet subscriptions are evaluated by concentration, the top ten states which are Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Oyo, FCT, Kaduna, Rivers, Delta, Edo and Niger cumulatively had 80.3 million lines in 2020 as against 66.6 million lines in 2019. Consequently, their share of the total internet subscriptions in the country fell to 52 percent in 2020 unlike in 2019 when they controlled 53 percent of the country’s total.

The all-round positive growth explained the good runs telecoms companies had in 2020. MTN Nigeria got 12 million additional active lines in 2020. Airtel Africa got 5.45 million additional lines while Globacom Nigeria got 3.14 million extra lines. MTN Nigeria topped the telecoms’ growth chart as its active lines increased to 80.76 million in 2020 up from 68.76 million in the previous year. Airtel Africa witnessed a 10.9 percent growth in 2020 with 55.64 million active lines up from 50.19 million in 2019. Globacom recorded 6.1 percent growth as its internet subscriptions rose from 51.7 million active lines in 2019 to 54.8 million lines in 2020.

Additionally, MTN Nigeria’s gross revenue in 2020 increased by 15 percent to N1.34 trillion up from N1.17 trillion in 2019. But profit after tax was flat at N205.2 billion in 2020 as against N203.3 billion in 2019. While voice revenue for 2020 was at N766.4 billion, representing a 6 percent growth over N725.4 billion in 2019, the data revenue surged by 51 percent to N332.4 billion in 2020 from N219.4 billion in 2019. The company’s interconnect and roaming services also grew by 6 percent during the same period.

Airtel Africa’s nine month revenue ended December 31, 2020 was up by 14 percent to $1.13 billion from $995 million in the corresponding period in 2019. Voice revenue grew by 7 percent while data revenue rose by 25 percent. Other revenue increased by 17 percent during the period.

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