Telcos record 4.90% growth as ISPs service 204,810 users

After garnering about 25 million new subscribers in 2022, which pushed Nigeria’s active telephone lines to 222 million, data has shown that the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile recorded an average 4.90 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth.
Global internet

• Service Providers’ Internet Point of Presence hits 2,146
After garnering about 25 million new subscribers in 2022, which pushed Nigeria’s active telephone lines to 222 million, data has shown that the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile recorded an average 4.90 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth.

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) latest subscription data, the last for 2022, MTN recorded the highest growth at 9.61 per cent from 2.73 per cent in Q3, 2022. Globacom went from 5.64 per cent in Q3 to 1.51 per cent by year-end. Airtel moved from 0.45 per cent to 2.85 per cent, while 9mobile, which saw 1.45 per cent growth in Q3, ended the year with 0.08 per cent growth.
The NCC statistics showed that MTN remained the largest operator in the country by penetration and subscribers. The Karl Toriola-led telecommunications firm finished last year with 89 million customers and 40 per cent market penetration. Globacom came second with 27.13 per cent market share and serviced 60.3 million users in 2022.

Airtel, which recently paid $316.7 million for 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band for the deployment of fifth-generation network (5G) and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz to boost its fourth-generation (4G) coverage in the country is third largest operator by numbers with 60.1 million users and 27 per cent market share. 9mobile is fourth with 12.8 million customers and 5.78 per cent market share.
MEANWHILE, the challenge facing the Internet Service Providers (ISP) sub-sector remained as data from the telecoms regulator showed that of 415,099 connected subscribers; only 204,810 have been active users.

There are about 103 licensed players including Odua Telecoms, Orange Business Communications service; MainOne; VDT Communications; Layer 3 Ltd; IDS Africa limited; Cyberspace Network Ltd; Cobranet Ltd; CobWeb Communications Ltd; BrianShare Ltd; Cleveland Technologies; Astramix Ltd; Zeta Web Ltd; Spectranet Ltd; Tizeti, among others.

These licensed ISPs have invested heavily in point of presence (PoP) with 2,146 points spread across the country. While NCC data showed that some of the ISPs only have one PoP, players like Spectranet have 648 connected 287,075 customers, out of which 115,103 are active. Spectranet is the largest ISP by subscription. Tizeti Networks has 131 PoP, 18243 active users from 39,410 connected customers, while ipNX Nigeria Ltd connected 19,068 users, 13, 104 are active customers with 53 PoP in Nigeria.

Industry analysts have identified certain challenges for the dwindling fortunes of the ISPs in the country. They stressed that the incursion of mobile network operators such as MTN, Globacom, Airtel, 9mobile and nTel remain a major development in the life of the ISPs. The telecoms operators, which possess Universal Access Service Licence (UASL), offer mobile Internet service, which hitherto was the traditional service offering of ISPs.

Some of the ISPs also blamed the situation on the harsh business environment occasioned by the sharp practices of GSM operators, who now compete with ISPs in retail service offering, instead of sticking to wholesale service offering.

The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) Deolu Ogunbanjo told The Guardian that the major problems have been the ability of MNOs to operate in ISPs terrain.
Ogunbanjo, who said the MNOs have changed their strategies from just voice offering to data services, noted that the economy should not be blamed, saying: “ISPs must evolve to stay afloat. They should offer reduced but attractive tariffs.”

He called on the regulator to come up with policies that will keep the ISPs afloat in the country.

A major ISP CEO in the country, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the major challenge the operators face is the arbitrary fixing of prices by bigger operators just to stifle smaller operators and force them out of the market.

He stressed the need for regulatory control and the reintroduction of Data Floor Price by the NCC.

A telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, said that more ISPs may still go down due to the current economic situation in Nigeria.

Aluko explained that the ISPs buy broadband data in wholesale from companies like nTel, MainOne, Glo1, and MTN, who have berthed their submarine cables with huge bandwidth capacities at the shores of the country, in turn, “they retail the broadband data bundle to individuals and organisations, but the same broadband company that sell to them are now in competition with them, selling directly to same customers even at reduced price, thus making competition and survival extremely difficult for ISPs.”

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