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Data Usage in Nigeria Surged By 202% in Three Years

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According to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigeria’s Data usage surged by 202.08 percent in three years.

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 percent. 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 percent, 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 percent, 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 percent and our data customer base grew by 14.5 percent, now representing 34.3 percent 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 percent in constant currency. Growing penetration and usage of 3G and 4G data customers helped us grow data ARPU 8.2 percent. Fourth Generation data usage more than doubled in the year, contributing 62.2 percent of total data usage on the network in Q4’21.”

The uptake in data usage is being driven by mobile devices, with GSM having a 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.

Telecommunications

Lagos Residents Frustrated by Rapid Data Drain, Call for NCC Action

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Lagos residents are expressing increasing frustration over what they describe as the rapid depletion of their data bundles.

Many subscribers are now calling on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to address their concerns as they suspect changes in billing practices by telecommunication providers.

Numerous subscribers have reported that their data does not last as long as it used to. A Lagos-based teacher, Mrs. Nafidah Zaynab, shared her experience, stating that a N2,000 data bundle, which previously lasted almost a month, now depletes within just a few days.

This sentiment is echoed by many, including Idowu Anabili, a trader who has reduced his data usage due to rising costs.

Abdullahi Yunus, who runs a café, noted a significant increase in his data expenses, spending between N70,000 and N100,000 monthly, up from N30,000. He attributes this spike to faster data consumption.

Telecom operators deny any wrongdoing, attributing the faster data consumption to increased usage by subscribers.

An anonymous official from MTN explained that the variety of activities performed on smartphones has increased, leading to faster data usage.

Airtel Nigeria’s spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adeniran, suggested that background apps and high-definition streaming contribute to the issue.

Despite complaints, operators assert they have not officially increased data prices. They emphasize that automatic app updates and other technical factors may be responsible for the perceived quick depletion.

Experts suggest that the challenging economic climate may be pressuring telecom companies to subtly reduce data value.

The industry has reported a 43% rise in operational costs, although no formal tariff hikes have been announced.

The NCC has clarified that it has not authorized any increase in data tariffs. The commission highlights technical factors like automatic video play and app updates as potential causes for quick data depletion.

In a bid to assist consumers, the NCC has advised turning on data saver modes and managing app updates to conserve data.

To combat the issue, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have initiated a campaign to educate consumers on optimizing their data usage.

They recommend practices such as disabling automatic updates and closing unused apps.

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Telecom Giants Invest in Data Centers to Meet Soaring Internet Demand

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Nigeria’s telecommunications industry is experiencing a surge in data center investments as companies strive to accommodate the nation’s rapidly increasing internet consumption.

This move became imperative after a report by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) showed that monthly internet usage has skyrocketed by 502% since 2019.

Monthly internet usage grew from 125,149.86 terabytes (TB) in December 2019 to 753,388.77 TB in March 2024.

This dramatic increase is primarily driven by the growing appetite for streaming services and other online activities, necessitating a robust infrastructure to manage the escalating demand.

MTN Nigeria and Airtel, which together control 66.28% of the country’s mobile subscriber base, are at the forefront of this infrastructure expansion. Both companies have announced substantial investments in new data centers to enhance their service delivery capabilities.

MTN Nigeria’s Expansion

In June, MTN Nigeria unveiled plans to construct a 1,500-rack, Tier 4 data center. According to Mohammed Rufai, MTN’s Chief Technical Officer, this facility will be instrumental in meeting the burgeoning data demands and digital needs of businesses and consumers alike.

“Our facility will provide the space and services needed, enabling companies to digitalize their operations and improve efficiency,” Rufai said.

“With sufficient headroom, we can cater to growth and sudden demand rise, ensuring a seamless experience for our subscribers.”

Airtel’s Groundbreaking Initiative

In March, Airtel broke ground on its first data center in Lagos, marking the beginning of a major investment drive in digital infrastructure.

The Nxtra by Airtel data center will be the first of five hyper-scale data centers to be developed by Airtel Africa. These centers aim to improve the speed of access to digital services and reduce the cost of managing data.

Industry Significance

These investments are poised to significantly enhance Nigeria’s position in the digital economy. Bosun Tijani, the Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy Minister, emphasized the critical role of data in the country’s economic growth.

“Data is a key driver in our economy. Not only do we need to connect our people, but we also must invest in the digital economy. Through the investment that companies like Airtel have made in our economy, we are fully able to participate in the digital economy,” Tijani said.

Despite these efforts, Nigeria still lags behind other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya in terms of data center capacity. South Africa, for example, has attracted investments from global tech giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Future Prospects

According to a report by Arizton Advisory and Intelligence, Nigeria’s data center market, valued at $230 million in 2022, is expected to reach $415 million by 2028. Industry experts highlight a significant data center gap, with current infrastructure falling short of the necessary capacity.

Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Open Access Data Centers (OADC), noted, “We do not have enough data centres. Analysis shows we need around 700 data centres but only have about 100. However, we expect significant progress in the next 12 months, with new data centres being launched.”

Economic Impact

The development of new data centers is expected to localize more content from international companies, improving user experience and network efficiency. These investments will also contribute significantly to economic growth, making Lagos a key hub of digital infrastructure on the continent.

“Lagos is going to be the key hub of digital infrastructure in Africa. Right now, South Africa has 50 percent of installed data center capacity, but Lagos is starting to shift in the implementation of digital infrastructure,” Coker added.

With these strategic investments, Nigeria is well on its way to bolstering its digital economy, ensuring it remains competitive in the increasingly data-driven global landscape.

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MTN Nigeria Boosts Tax Contribution to N549.3bn, Expands Network Nationwide

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MTN Nigeria Communications Plc has announced a significant contribution of N549.3 billion in taxes and levies to the Nigerian government for the year 2023.

This milestone, detailed in the company’s 2023 Sustainability Report filed with the Nigeria Exchange Limited, underscores MTN Nigeria’s role as a key player in the nation’s economic and technological advancement.

The report highlights MTN Nigeria’s expansive growth in connectivity, reaching 79.7 million people and achieving a remarkable 92.9 percent nationwide coverage.

This expansion is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide and enhance communication infrastructure across Nigeria.

“We are proud of the progress we have made so far, expanding connectivity to 79.7 million people, achieving 92.9 percent nationwide coverage, and investing N2.6 billion in corporate social investment programs that have impacted over 58,000 lives through the MTN Foundation,” the telecom giant stated.

In addition to its tax contributions, MTN Nigeria’s capital expenditure rose to N571.0 billion in 2023, reflecting a 13.2 percent increase from the previous year.

This substantial investment was directed towards enhancing infrastructure and service delivery, reinforcing MTN’s commitment to improving customer experience and expanding digital solutions across the country.

Karl Toriola, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, expressed pride in the company’s progress and reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability and community impact.

“We remain steadfast in our pursuit of excellence and committed to continuously improving our sustainability practices while striving for an even greater impact in the communities we serve,” he said.

MTN Nigeria’s comprehensive approach to sustainability and growth is evident in its corporate social investment programs.

The MTN Foundation, which received N2.6 billion in funding, has positively affected over 58,000 lives through various initiatives aimed at education, health, and economic empowerment.

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