Second-generation network (2G) continues to dominate Nigeria’s mobile network subscriptions, new industry statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission have revealed.
This is as the fifth-generation network (5G) grew to 2.14 million in November 2023. This is a 707.09 percent increase from the 265,510 recorded in May 2023, when the NCC started updating the network’s market share, indicating a surge in 5G subscriptions in the country.
The total number of mobile subscriptions rose to 222.80 million in November 2023. Based on data on the NCC’s portal, the number of 5G subscriptions was 0.96 percent of total mobile subscriptions (222.80 million). Despite its reduced market share, 2G still controlled 59.32 percent (132.17 million). 3G is on a steady decline, owing only 9.81 percent (21.86 million) of the mobile subscriptions market. 4G market share in November was 29.91 percent (66.64 million).
5G launched in Nigeria in September 2022, despite officially beginning its journey in 2019. At the launch of the first 5G network, which was by MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “5G will change everything. It will allow us to connect, create, collaborate, and compete in ways we cannot imagine yet. Today we will show you a glimpse of the many possibilities 5G has in store. What is most important is what you and every Nigerian can create with it.”
Since then, Airtel Nigeria and Mafab Communications have also launched their own 5G networks. The NCC recently disclosed that 5G network has gotten to about 30 cities in Nigeria.
“Nigeria is still grappling with 5G. I can say that the network is still in less than 30 cities in the country. So, we still have a long way to go. But we have strategies to deploy the service in Nigeria. 4G LTE has not even covered the entire country,” Ubale Maska, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Standard, said at a recent event.
Despite the initial optimism, 5G is not expected to dominant the network in Nigeria anytime soon. Up until 2029, 4G is expected to account for the largest portion of mobile subscriptions in the country and across Africa.
“In the pursuit of modernisation and enhanced connectivity, subscribers are constantly migrating toward 4G networks. This trajectory indicates that 4G will be the primary driver for new subscriptions up to the year 2028,” Ericsson said in its latest mobility report.
5G is not expected to make any significant impact on mobile subscription numbers until 2023. GSMA recently noted, “5G is also gathering momentum in the region due to operators’ efforts to modernise and prepare their networks. 5G adoption is expected to grow more quickly in the second half of this decade, rising to 17 percent by 2030.”
5G already accounts for over one billion mobile subscriptions in the world, but Africa remains left behind. GSMA, the global association for telcos, added in one of its reports, “5G is currently at a nascent stage in Africa, with the adoption rate being around one percent of total connections. This is expected to grow to eight percent by 2026.”
The Minister of Communications, Innovations, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, opined that the lack of infrastructure was slowing down 5G growth in the country. According to media reports, he said, “The infrastructure that drives 5G is not something that is across the nation.”
Device access also continues to play an important role in 5G adoption with both MTN and Airtel partnering with device manufacturers to boost 5G penetration in the country.