By Victor Akindele
From a peak of 45.93 per cent in October last year, Nigeria’s broadband penetration plunged to 41.18 per cent in March 2021. The decline in the number of broadband users came as a setback for the country’s digital journey as subscriptions went down to 78.6 million.
This came amidst the ongoing implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), which seeks to connect 70 per cent of Nigerians within five years. An analysis of the NCC’s data showed that the country had been recording consistent decrease in the number of broadband users since November 2020. According to the data, the service providers had lost a total of 9 million broadband subscribers between November 2020 and March 2021.
In November 2020, broadband penetration had declined by 1.6 million, breaking 10 months of consistent monthly growth. By December, it went down further as the number of broadband subscriptions stood at 85.9 million, compared with 86 million in the preceding month while the penetration level went down to 45.02 per cent from 45.07 per cent recorded in the preceding month.
January 2021 saw the number of broadband users in the country declined by four million from 85.9 million in December to 81.9, which brought the penetration level to 42.93. And in February it went further down again to 79.9 million users.
Between January and October 2020, broadband connectivity in the country had increased by 15.5 million. On average, the country had been recording a one per cent increase each month, as the mobile network operators continued to push for deployment of 4G service across the country.
However, industry analysts are blaming the consistent decline in the last five months on the suspension of SIM sales. According to them, many subscribers were not been able to replace or swap their damaged or missing SIMs since the ban on SIM registration or activation, which took effect on December 9, 2020.
With the lifting of the suspension on April 19, experts said the country would have to fast-track the implementation of the NBP 2020-2025 and remove obstacles to fast deployment of infrastructure to recover the lost grounds.
The suspension of SIM sales has also affected the country’s overall active mobile subscriptions negatively. According to NCC’s data, active subscriptions across the four GSM networks of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile stood at 192 million as of March-end, down from 207.5 million recorded in November 2020.
With the decline in mobile subscriptions, the country’s teledensity, which measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living within an area, also declined from 108.92 per cent in November 2020, to 100.80 per cent in January 2021.