Nigeria has one of the largest telecom markets in Africa, supported by the second largest economy on the continent after South Africa. Given the potential for further growth, the sector attracts considerable foreign investment. Far reaching liberalisation in recent years has led to hundreds of companies, many of them small and localised, providing varied telecom and value-added services in an effectively regulated market.
The mobile sector has benefited from market competition and the wider deployment of LTE services during the last two years, which has supported operator revenue and encouraged the adoption of mobile broadband among subscribers. Other than the key mobile network operators, there are a number of additional players operating under a unified licensing regime.
After a decade of failed privatisation attempts, the incumbent national telco Nitel and its mobile arm M-Tel went into liquidation, with the NATCOM Consortium acquiring the telco in March 2015 for some $252 million.
Nigeria has the most competitive fixed-line market in Africa, featuring a second national operator (Globacom) and over 80 other companies licensed to provide fixed-telephony services. The alternative carriers combined now provide around 85% of all fixed connections while the ailing incumbent.
Several microwave and fibre-based national backbone networks are being rolled out by various companies. Nitel’s monopoly on international fibre bandwidth via the SAT-3/WASC submarine cable system ended in 2009 when Globacom’s Glo-1 cable landed in the country. Additional submarine cables which have landed subsequently, supported by improved domestic fibre infrastructure, have delivered a further boost to the country’s developing broadband sector by improving bandwidth and reducing prices for end-users.
The broadband sector has seen considerable consolidation among players, from over 400 ISPs in 2012 to around 90 by mid-2016. Most internet connections are via mobile networks, principally GSM and 3G and more recently LTE, though there are a number of WiMAX operators which have found niche markets.
Supported by the expansion of national fibre backbone networks, platforms such as e-commerce, online banking and e-payments, e-health, e-learning and e-government are evolving rapidly. The government has continued with its plan to increase broadband penetration to 36% by 2018 and to enable over 80% of the population to be able to receive mobile broadband via 3G and LTE technologies.
Nigeria has Africa’s largest mobile market, with about 150 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 107%. The rapid growth in the number of subscribers led to problems with network congestion and quality of service, prompting the telecom regulator to impose fines and sanctions on the network operators. These operators have responded by investing billions of dollars in base stations and fibre optic transmission infrastructure to support the ever increasing demand for bandwidth.
Efforts are also being made to encourage network sharing and to outsource the management of tower infrastructure to third parties. There remains considerable growth potential in rural areas where the provision of network infrastructure and operations is expensive, and consequently where mobile penetration is lower. Competition of voice pricing has encouraged operators to develop new revenue streams from mobile broadband and data services, including m-payments and m-banking.
Although the market is one of the most competitive in Africa, the industry regulator between 2013 and early 2016 applied a price floor on voice and data tariffs in a bid to prevent the dominant operators from squeezing competitors. Following years of delay, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was finally introduced in 2013, and this has stimulated market competitiveness. The terrorist group Boko Haram has created difficulties for network provision and maintenance in the northern states, a difficulty which neither the government nor operators are properly positioned to address.
For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Nigeria – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses
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