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Nigeria’s mobile internet subscriptions rose by 14m in 2019


Number of mobile internet users in Nigeria increased by 14 million between January and December 2019. Active internet subscriptions on MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile networks rose from 111.6 million in December 2018 to 125.7 million in December 2019, representing 12.6.per cent growth year-on-year.

Analysis of the statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed that MTN gained the lion share of the new internet users for the period under review. The South African telecommunications company added 10.2 million new internet subscribers between January and December to record the largest customers totalling 54.1 million. Airtel came second as it recorded 4.7 million new internet subscriptions in the period under review, which brought its data subscription figure to 34.5million.

Globacom, came third in terms of data subscription as it added 879,491 new internet users to have a total of 28.9 million users. However, 9mobile, lost 1.8 million internet subscribers in the period, leaving the 4th network operator with a total of 8 million internet customers as of December 2019.

Further confirming the operators’ claim that the voice market is becoming saturated, subscriptions for voice grew by 11.9 million in the same 12 months period. Total subscriptions which stood at 172.4 million in December 2018 rose to 184.4 million at the end of 2019. This indicated a slow growth as the operators were at a time recording averagely 1 million additional subscriptions on a monthly basis. This realisation has seen the operators investing heavily in infrastructure for data provisioning to earn more from the growing appetite for data by Nigerians.

The rapid increase in data users as opposed to voice may not also be unconnected with the proliferation of Over the Top Services (OTTs) such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Wechat, IMO, among others, through which subscribers can also make voice and video calls using their data subscriptions.

Meanwhile, from the latest declaration by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a global coalition which Nigeria belongs, the country would have to shift its attention from counting the number of people connected to the internet to focus on the number of

According to the body, the current definition of internet connectivity measures who has access by including anyone who has used the internet from any device in the past three months.  “The trouble with this definition is that it lumps all internet users together. Someone who uses WhatsApp on a 2.5G mobile connection once a month is considered the same as another who runs a business from her home using a super-fast fibre broadband connection. That’s why the Alliance for Affordable Internet has developed ‘Meaningful Connectivity’ as a new global standard that measures not only if someone has accessed the internet, but the quality of connection they have,” it said.

“Network shutdowns and limitations on device ownership, or artificial limitations like limits on data usage or excessive censorship, curb the internet’s ability to drive economic growth and human development. But mere access to the open internet is not enough — a meaningful connection is also necessary,” the group said in its update on the new measurement.

The coalition noted that to make a real difference in people’s lives, internet access must be of a sufficient standard, adding that if policymakers focus only on improving the single metric of basic connectivity, efforts to improve internet access and use for all will fall short and the digital divide would continue to widen. “Meaningful Connectivity provides a framework for differentiating levels of internet access so that decision-makers are better able to enact policy that helps people connect to an internet that is useful and empowering,” A4AI said.

Highlighting factors that make a connection meaningful, A4AI said internet users must get sufficient download speeds to access multimedia and other applications that make up a full internet experience.  While about 90 per cent of internet access in Nigeria is said to be through mobile, A4AI said: “mobile-only access is not the same as access via a laptop or desktop, because a full physical keyboard is better suited to content creation and productivity”.



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