Data usage in Nigeria surged by 202.08 per cent in three years, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
According to the subscriber/network data reports of 2018, 2019, and 2020, data usage rose from 68,154.12 terabytes in 2018 to 125,149.86TB in 2019 and 205,880.4TB in 2020.
The total national and local outgoing voice calls were 121,935,927,123.15 in 2018. The calls grew to 149,584,465,210 in 2019 to 150,825,830,687.40.
According to the NCC, in 2018, broadband penetration figures stood at 31.48 per cent. The total active 3G connections were 47,325,726 while 4G connections were 12,761,473 subscriptions.
In 2019, broadband penetration grew to 37.80 per cent, with the total active 3G connections growing to 50,441,608 while 4G grew to 21,712,216.
In 2020, broadband penetration stood at 45.02 per cent, with the total active 3G connection falling to 49,402,994, while 4G grew to 36,538,228.
In the period under review, GSM internet subscribers grew by 53,639,503 from 100,234,283 in January 2018 to 153,873,786 in December 2020.
MTN had the largest market share. In 2018, it had an internet subscriber base of 37,201,086, which grew to 59,594,891 in December 2020.
In 2018, MTN made N164.79bn from data, and N674.78bn from voice. Its data revenue rose from N218.69bn in 2019 to N332.37bn in 2020 while voice revenue increased from N723.92bn to N766.39bn.
The NCC attributed the increase in data usage in 2020 to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the pandemic disrupted normal activities and most functions had to pivot to virtual forms.
Former MTN Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, had said, “The year 2020 was challenging for all. The unprecedented disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the businesses and people we serve, challenged us in new and demanding ways.
“The impact continues to evolve. Adoption of our data and digital services accelerated as lockdowns and gathering restrictions were imposed, and work-from-home became the norm for many.”
Commenting on the increase in data traffic, Airtel had in a report said, “Our improved 4G network contributed to an increase in smartphone penetration, in data customers and in up-take of large data volumes, resulting in greater data consumption per customer.
“Smartphone penetration was up by one percentage point to 33 per cent and our data customer base grew by 14.5 per cent, now representing 34.3 per cent of our total customer base.
“Data usage per customer reached 2.6 GB per customer (from 1.8 GB per customer) led by an increase in smartphone penetration and expansion of our home broadband and enterprise customers.
“This helped us grow data revenue 31.2 per cent in constant currency. Growing penetration and usage of 3G and 4G data customers helped us grow data ARPU 8.2 per cent. Fourth Generation data usage more than doubled in the year, contributing 62.2 per cent of total data usage on the network in Q4’21.”
The uptake in data usage is being driven by mobile devices, with GSM having the large portion of the market. The mobile device market is dominated by smartphones. According to GSMA, Nigeria had 53 million smartphone connections in 2018. GSMA estimates that smartphone connections will rise to 154 million by 2025.