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Telecoms sees 20% data, voice revenue rise on impact of COVID-19

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• GSMA sees Nigeria leads SSA to new 170m subscribers in five years
Telecommunications sector in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), are said to have seen some 20 per cent increase in both data and voice revenues in the last two months.
   
The Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA), which revealed this, attributed the increase to the lockdown imposed by various governments in the region to curtail the spread of the rampaging coronavirus pandemic.
   
GSMA, which represents the interest of over 800 telecoms operators and vendors across the globe, said the lockdown forced people to work from home, remotely and virtually, the process of which spurred increased use of data.
   
Head, GSMA Africa, Akinwale Goodluck, who disclosed this to some select journalists across Africa, including The Guardian, via Zoom, said the sector responded adequately well to the pandemic by providing communication options for subscribers across the globe.
  

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Goodluck noted that the demand for services, which soared and still rising was a good problem, “and provided opportunities for operators to improve and deploy services across board. COVID-19 stirred up call for emergency spectrum to improve services. We also saw that telecoms was recognised as critical infrastructure in some countries. It also enabled greater adoption of eCommerce and other electronic transactions within this period.”
   
Revealing a GSMA Intelligence report, which forecast Nigeria to lead SSA to new 170 million fresh subscribers mark in another five years, Goodluck said large, under-penetrated markets will drive subscriber growth in the coming years.
   
He pointed out that countries including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, and Nigeria will account for more than a third of new subscribers over the period to 2025.
  
Giving an insight into the report, Goodluck, said Nigeria is expected to have fresh 31 million subscribers by 2025. Others including Ethiopia, DRC, Tanzania, and Kenya will garner 18 million, 15 million, 10 million and nine million respectively within this period. 84 million new subscribers will come from other countries in the region.
  
Goodluck, who decried Africa’s 24 per cent Internet penetration, noted that unique mobile penetration rates vary considerably across the region.
 
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According to him, South Africa is one of eight markets with above 60 per cent penetration rate, while six countries, including Ethiopia and the DRC, still have penetration rates below 40 per cent.
   
On this, Goodluck said 40 per cent of the population will have services that appealed to them, stressing that this population segment will drive subscriber growth and usage trends in the future, but the size of this demography will continue to suppress overall penetration rates.
  
On the status of Internet penetration in Africa, the GSMA Africa Head, said while more than two thirds of the population are connected to the Internet in North America and Europe, access levels remain below a third in Africa, India and much of the sub-continent.

According to him, high populations magnify the effect. He said India alone accounts for 860 million of the unconnected globally.
 

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Goodluck noted that network coverage remains a challenge but one that has mitigated. “Some 750 million people live outside of a viable 3G or 4G signals but this was 1.8 billion only five years ago. Organic expansion and network sharing have extended mobile coverage to rural locales.”
  
He however, said the bigger obstacle is relevance and understanding how to use the mobile Internet. According to him, GSMA quantify these barriers under ‘usage gap’.
  
Goodluck informed that the next billion are the mobile-only generation, as most of the growing base of mobile Internet users (largely from the fast growing markets) are mobile-only with no PC access, meaning that a huge expansion of the app and digital content economy to non-English speaking markets.
   
Streaming, according to him, is at the forefront of this trend, with Netflix’s recent launch of a stripped back, mobile-only tariff in India as a sign of things to come.
 
He said the next billion users will be powered by rising smartphone penetration. Goodluck disclosed that smartphone penetration has reached 65 per cent worldwide, reflecting failing device costs and cellular data prices.
    
According to him, the upward trend will continue as Android manufacturers permeate the legacy 2G and 3G base.
   
“By 2025, we expect adoption to reach 80 per cent. Most smartphones will run on LTE, with the 1.5 billion 5G smartphones clustered in early-adopter countries, of which the US and China are the biggest,” he stated.  
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