Despite a whopping 161 million subscriptions recorded as at the end of September this year, number of persons using mobile phones in Nigeria is still less than 100 million, New Telegraph has learnt. This is according to the report of a recent survey by Research ICT Africa (RIA), which pointed out that 51 percent of mobile subscribers in the country own more than one SIM card.
The report, which suggests that mobile penetration is still low in Nigeria contrary to the general belief of over 100 per cent penetration, declared specifically that 42 per cent of mobile users in Nigeria own two SIMs, while six per cent own three SIMs. Three per cent of mobile users in Nigeria own more than three SIMs according to the survey, while only 49 per cent own one SIM.
Research ICT Africa conducted ICT access and use surveys in seven African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania as part of a 16 country Global South survey called “After Access”. The report titled ‘The State of ICT in Nigeria 2018’ stated that compared to other countries surveyed, Nigeria ranked fourth out of seven countries on mobile phone penetration. “This is lower than mobile penetration in Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, whose penetration rates are also substantially lower than the reported ITU rate, due to multiple active SIMs cards being counted as unique subscribers in the administrative data that operators supply to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)” the report said.
It noted that due to large proportions of dual SIM card ownership in the African prepaid market, penetration levels are reported as over 100 percent. “The Nigerian Survey shows that as of 2017, 63 percent of adults of 15 years and older in Nigeria own a mobile phone, considerably less than the 83 percent reported by ITU on the basis of administrative data collected from operators and suppliers, but easily explicable with the average number of duplicate SIMs”.
While noting that the duplicity of SIMs is not peculiar to Nigeria, the research company noted that majority of African mobile phone users have multiple SIM cards, either to be connected in areas where their main operator may have no coverage, or to cushion themselves from high off-net calls, or to benefit from promotions. Ninety percent of mobile phone subscribers own more than one SIM card in Africa. In such markets, the only way to get reliable, up-to-date information about penetration levels in Africa is through nationally representative demand-side surveys” the ICT research company said.
It added that in most developing countries policymakers and regulators depend on supply side data from operators, which also forms the basis of the administrative data collected by most operators. “This is also the data provided to the ITU, the body responsible for the harmonisation of standards and indicators for the sector. The ITU uses this data for the compilation of the ICT Development Index. As the UN body mandated to collect global indicators and the only body with a global reach, this data set is also at the core of all the major global indices, such as the World Economic Forum Network Readiness Index, various World Wide Web Foundation indices and the new Economist Intelligence Unit”.
While noting that current data being used by ITU and telecom regulators focus only on the supply side of the market and not the demand, RIA pointed out that without nationally representative demand side data, it would be impossible to provide an accurate measure of access to the Internet. “One of the reasons supply and demand side data do not match is that supply-side data measures active SIM cards on operator networks, rather than unique subscribers. Duplicate SIMs, which are measured by operators as active SIMs and reported to the ITU in the administrative data of countries, account for at least some of the over-count of subscribers. On the basis of this supply side data, one is also unable to provide the gender or urban and rural breakdowns that are required for policy planning and interventions” it stated.