The year 2023 can be said to be off to a good start with the Telcos in Nigeria recording a 4.9% growth with an internet subscriber base hitting 204,810.
2022 saw Telcos' subscriber growth to about 25 million subscribers resulting in active telephone lines for Nigerians climbing to 222 million.
Available data shows the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9Mobile record an average of 4.90% quarter-on-quarter growth.
Sequel to NCC's latest released subscription statistics for 2022 (the last in the series), it is gathered that MTN enjoyed the biggest growth of 9.61% from a 2022 Q3's 2.73%.
Globacom follows closely with a 5.64% rise from a 2022 Q3 stat of 1.51% as of year-end.
Similarly, Airtel is third with a rise to 2.85% from 0.45%, while 9mobile witnessed a paltry 1.45% 2022 Q3 growth that ended the year with a 0.08% growth.
Going by the NCC's statistics, MTN remained Nigeria's biggest operator in terms of penetration and subscribers.
With Karl Toriola at the helm of affairs, this telco giant ended last year with 89 million customers and 40% market penetration.
Again, Globacom was second with a 27.13% market share while servicing a whopping 60.3 million users in 2022.
In a recent development, Airtel had disbursed a whopping $316.7 million to acquire a 100-MHz-spectrum in the 3500MHz band for the deployment of the fifth-generation network (5G) and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz to boost its fourth-generation (4G) coverage in Nigeria.
This makes Airtel the third largest operator by numbers with 60.1 million users and 27% market share.
9mobile is in a distant fourth position based on a 12.8 million customer base and a 5.78% market share.
Notwithstanding these milestones, Nigeria's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have continued to groan under obvious challenges going to the NCC's data revealing that out of 415,099 connected subscribers, only 204,810 are active.
Only a few of about 103 licensed ISP players have invested heavily in point of presence (PoP) with 2,146 points spread across the country.
While NCC data showed that some of the ISPs only have one PoP, players like Spectranet have 648 connected 287,075 customers, out of which 115,103 are active.
Spectranet is the largest ISP by subscription. Tizeti Networks has 131 PoP, and 18243 active users from 39,410 connected customers, while ipNX Nigeria Ltd connected 19,068 users, and 13,104 active customers with 53 PoP in Nigeria.
Of all the challenges identified by industry analysts as instrumental to this challenge, the incursion of mobile network operators such as MTN, Globacom, Airtel, 9mobile, and nTel is the major show-stopper for ISPs.
This is because the telcos also possess Universal Access Service Licence (UASL), which enables them to offer mobile Internet service.
This is clearly a disservice to the ISPs confined to only data services.
Sharp practices by these GSMS operators undermining the scope of the ISPs have also been fingered as another major contributor to this ongoing challenge.
The telcos that ventured into internet services refused to stick to the wholesale service offering.
They also profit from retailing data services to the disadvantage of the ISPs.
This much was recently divulged by the president of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo when he disclosed the regulator's unwillingness to restrict the operations of the MNOs in the ISPs' terrain.
According to Ogunbanjo, "The MNOs have changed their strategies from just voice offering to data services" while noting that the economy should not be blamed.
ISPs must evolve to stay afloat. They should offer reduced but attractive tariffs.”
Ogunbanjo, therefore, called on the regulator to come up with policies that will keep the ISPs afloat in the country.
In a similar scenario, a CEO of one of climbingpercentNigeria's ISP majors commented anonymously that the major challenge the operators face is the arbitrary fixing of prices by bigger operators just to stifle smaller operators and force them out of the market.
He reiterated the need for the NCC to reintroduce the Data Floor Price control mechanism.
At the rate things are moving, according to a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, more ISPs are likely to go down owing to the harsh economic realities in Nigeria.
According to Aluko, while the ISPs are made to buy broadband data wholesale from these telco giants like nTel, MainOne, Glo1, and MTN with high-bandwidth capacity installed submarine cables, “They retail the broadband data bundle to individuals and organisations, but the same broadband company that sells to them are now in competition with them, selling directly to same customers even at a reduced price, thus making competition and survival extremely difficult for ISPs.”
In all of these fights involving elephants, the subscribers suffer the most and are left at the mercy of all the telco and ISP players with the regulator appearing helpless over the matter.
It is high time the regulatory authorities rose to the challenge of helping out Nigerian internet subscribers who are already groaning enough under other sectors.
COURTEVILLE BUSINESS SOLUTIONS PLC (“Courteville”), is a foremost Ni...LEARN MORE
NCR Nigeria PLC was incorporated in Nigeria under the Companies and Allied Matte...LEARN MORE
Omatek Ventures Plc is a Nigeria-based holding Company that was founded in 1988 ...LEARN MORE