The number of active internet subscriptions saw a decline by eight percent at 141.9 million in 2021 from 154.3 million in 2020, data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed.
The year 2021 started on a promising note with 151.2 million subscribers, although after a mild two percent decline from the previous year. The numbers saw a continuous dip from February to July and picked up slightly by 0.35 percent in August from 139.7 to 140.2 million.
Despite the fading impact of the Federal Government’s policy that temporarily banned the sale and activation of new SIM cards which saw the first increase in internet subscriptions in August, the steady but minimal monthly growth recorded in the last four months of 2021 is supported by increased SIM card sales following the lifting of the ban on new SIM card registrations.
Breakdown of the NCC data shows that MTN Nigeria, in the review period maintained the telecom with the highest number of subscribers at 58.8 million. Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile closed the year with 39.5, 37.5, and 5.7 million subscribers respectively.
“Our objective is to put the industry on an even faster growth trajectory where we can meet, and even surpass the national policy objectives detailed in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2021-2025) and other policy instruments for the sector,” Umar Garba Danbatta, NCC’s executive vice chairman said.
Meanwhile, the complexity around the government SIM registration policy is still being referred to as the reason behind the current telecom industry growth. In the period under review, the growth in Nigeria’s telecommunication industry has not enjoyed a consistent growth.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), capital importation into the telecoms industry plunged from $56.28 million in Q1 2021 to $50.34 million in Q2 but rose to $50.84 million in Q3.
Capital importation data is obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria and is inclusive of imported physical capital, such as equipment, and financial capital importation. It added that capital importation is divided into three main investment categories: foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and other investments.
With MTN’s recent commitment to invest N640 billion over the next three years to expand broadband access in Nigeria, the sector’s customer base as well as the already existing infrastructure, analysts say the industry growth will be boosted.
Also, Nigeria’s internet space is set to gain more traction with the roll-out of 5G. The final Information Memorandum (IM), a document that defines the process for the licensing of the 3.5GHz spectrum band, stipulates a rollout obligation plan which will run for a period of 10 years for the licences.
In the first and second years after the licence is awarded, the operators are expected to roll out service in at least one state in each geo-political zone within the third to fifth year, they are expected to cover all the zones, and in six to 10 years, they are supposed to cover all the states in the country.
The benefits of 5G network will include faster internet speed, larger network capacity and lower latency. Despite these identified benefits, the Ericsson Mobility Report for June ’21 observed that by 2026, 3G will remain the dominant network in sub-Saharan Africa, with a predicted share of over 40 percent of mobile subscriptions.
4G and 5G networks are expected to account for about 28 percent and seven percent of the region’s subscriptions respectively.