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Nigerians spend N2.6trn on data and airtime in nine months amid economic hardship

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Nigerians have spent at least N2.59tn in the first nine months of 2023 on airtime and data amid the current economic hardship.


This is according to the financial statements of MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa.

This was a 32.57 percent increase from the N1.95tn both telcos recorded from both income sources in the corresponding period of 2022.

The increase in voice and data venue was partially driven by rising data subscriptions and the devaluation of the naira on Airtel’s part. In the first nine months of 2022, Airtel made $1.41bn from airtime and data. When converted at the exchange rate of N461/$ which was obtained at the time, it amounted to N647.71bn.

In the same period of 2023, the company’s income from these two revenue sources amounted to $1.29bn. When converted at the exchange rate of N777/$ at the time, it amounted to N1.003tn. On MTN’s part, increasing data revenues continue to fuel the company’s overall revenue growth. Data revenues grew by 36.36 per cent year-on-year, while voice revenues only grew by 10.64 per cent, indicating a rise in the usage of the Internet in the country.

Commenting on this growth, MTN said, “Data revenue grew by 36.4 percent on increased usage and data conversion in new and existing base.”

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The firm stated that data usage on its network grew by 29.1 percent in the period under review. It noted, “Data usage (GB per user) grew by 29.1 per cent to 8.6GB, and the number of smartphones on our network increased by 7.6 percent, bringing smartphone penetration to 53.4 percent, up 1.4pp YoY.

“Consequently, we recorded a 46.3 percent growth in data traffic, with the 4G network accounting for 83.7 percent of the total traffic (up 5.2pp YoY).”

On its part, Airtel recorded an increase in data usage per customer to 5.9 GB per month. The firm highlighted, “Data revenue grew by 29.3 per cent in constant currency, driven by data customer base growth of 17.4 per cent and data ARPU growth of 12.3 per cent.

“Data usage per customer increased by 23.8 per cent to 5.9 GB per month (from 4.8 GB in the prior period). Our continued 4G network rollout has resulted in nearly 100 per cent of all our sites delivering 4G services.”

Increased Internet usage because of a rise in video streaming pushed the amount telecom consumers spent on telecom services to N3.86tn in 2022. It was an 18.74 per cent increase from the N3.25tn that was spent in 2021. Data usage in the country surged by 46.77 per cent to 518,381.78TB in 2022 from 353,118.89TB in 2021.

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Data consumption has been predicted to be the next frontier for telecoms growth and is expected to continue to surge. Many analysts believe data revenues will outpace voice revenues in the coming years. The World Bank recently disclosed that increases in the consumption of data services by households and businesses and higher subscriber numbers were responsible for growth in the ICT sector.

In its Ericsson Mobility Report (June 2023), the firm noted, “Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to be the region with the highest growth in total mobile data traffic, rising by 37 per cent annually between 2022 and 2028 as service providers across the continent continue to invest in 4G networks and migrate customers from 2G and 3G.

“This increase in data traffic will primarily be driven by a four times increase in smartphone traffic in the period, with average data per active smartphone settling at 19 GB per month in 2028.”

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