The latest data released by the NCC, the industry regulator, show that internet subscriptions stood at 100.2 million in January, representing y/y growth of 9.8%. The figure implies a density of 54% in a population estimated at 185 million, placing Nigeria well above the African average of around 16% as indicated by McKinsey. In January there were 1.8 million new internet subscriptions recorded, compared with 3.6 million the previous month.
MTN Nigeria accounted for the largest share (37%) of total subscriptions. It has decided to go ahead with its proposed US$500m share issue on the NSE. This listing is long overdue, and the market capitalisation of the exchange would increase significantly.
9mobile (formerly Etisalat) suffered subscription losses for the eighth successive month. It recorded 61,000 losses in January, compared with 68,000 the previous month. As a result of its debt issues, network disruptions have been frequent, resulting in subscription losses.
Based on anecdotal evidence, internet usage via mobile devices is significantly higher than with wireless internet devices. The rural economy still suffers from low or no internet connectivity, partly due to the competing spending priorities of low-income households. We should also highlight the low broadband penetration level of 22%.
There are four major telecommunications infrastructure companies (InfraCos) in Nigeria. However, the shortage of transmission infrastructure has contributed to poor service delivery as well as the high cost of data services. We understand that the NCC plans on licensing more InfraCos, which are expected to deploy fibre optic for operators at a competitive cost.
Based on the recent GDP data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 the telecommunications sector contracted by -2.0% y/y compared with growth of 2.0% in 2016.