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Nigeria’s internet usage up 38% on smartphone uptake

Nigeria’s internet usage up 38% on smartphone uptake

Internet usage in Nigeria surged last year, according to new official data, reflecting the country’s deepening reliance on digital services.

Data consumption grew by 37.77 percent to 713,200 terabytes (TB) as of December 2023 from 517,670 TB in January, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

This development coincides with a rise in internet subscriptions, which reached 163.84 million, and smartphone penetration in the country. There has been a consistent growth in the consumption of digital services in the country in recent years, with data consumption as of December 2022 at 518,381.78TB as against 353,118.89TB at the end of the previous year.

This growth has been attributed to the increase in online activities that followed the COVID-19 pandemic. Data consumption has not fallen since then, and there has also been an uptick in the number of smartphones in the country.

GSMA, the global association for telecommunications companies, 58 percent of Nigerians living in urban areas and 32 percent living in rural areas owned smartphones in 2022, up from 53 percent ownership and 31 percent respectively in 2021.

Smartphone sales in Nigeria grew in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the International Data Corporation.

“Nigeria overcame market volatility and a significant currency devaluation to record Africa’s second-highest growth rate thanks to a strong push by Chinese brands,” the data insight firm said.

In August 2023, Umar Danbatta, the then executive vice chairman of the NCC, disclosed that Nigeria was ranked 11th in internet penetration and seventh in mobile phone usage globally.

“Nigeria is a telecommunications powerhouse, accounting for 82 percent of the continent’s telecom subscribers and 29 percent of the continent’s internet consumption,” he said.

In 2023, the World Bank highlighted that the country’s information and communications technology sector continued to expand due to increased data service consumption by households and businesses and higher subscriber numbers.

Telecommunication companies also reaped bountifully from this as their data revenue surged, with subscribers’ spending on data almost at par with their voice (calls) spending in 2023.

In 2023, MTN Nigeria made N749.53 billion from data, a 36.36 percent jump from N549.66 billion in 2022. Airtel made $769 million from data, a 9.21 percent decline from $847 million in 2022, attributing the revenue decline to naira’s fall.

In its audited results for the year ended 31 December 2023, MTN Nigeria said it recorded a 44.9 percent growth in data traffic, and its smartphone penetration rose to 55.6 percent.

“Our 4G network now covers 81.5 percent of the population, up from 79.1 percent in December 2022, and 5G at 11.3 percent… underpinning data usage (GB per user) growth of 29.1 percent,” the firm said.

Karl Toriola, MTN Nigeria’s chief executive officer, said: “We also increased our data subscribers by over 5 million to 44.6 million, which helped to drive total data traffic growth of 44.9 percent. This reflected the sustained growth in demand for data.”

Airtel revealed in its results for the nine-month period ended December that its customers increased their data usage by 23 percent to 6.2 GB per month.

“In Q3 ’24, 4G customers accounted for 52.1 percent of our total data customer base and contributed to 86.2 percent of total data usage. Q3’24 4G data usage per customer reached 12.8 GB per month, an increase of 42.0 percent (from 9.0 GB per customer per month in Q3’23).),” it said.

Data consumption is expected to continue to rise in Nigeria until 2028. This growth would be driven by smartphone traffic, according to Ericsson’s mobility report.