Telecom subscribers in Nigeria have collectively spent a substantial N2.59 trillion on airtime and data during the initial nine months of 2023, as reported by the financial statements of MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa. This reflects a notable 32.57% surge compared to the N1.95 trillion recorded by both telecommunications companies from these revenue sources during the same period in 2022.

Airtel’s financial statements indicate a rise in voice and data revenues, attributed in part to increased data subscriptions and the devaluation of the naira. In the corresponding period of 2022, Airtel generated $1.41 billion from airtime and data, equivalent to N647.71 billion at the exchange rate of N461/$. In 2023, with a different exchange rate of N777/$, the company’s income from these sources amounted to N1.003 trillion.

MTN, on the other hand, experienced robust revenue growth driven by an impressive 36.36% increase in data revenues year-on-year. Voice revenues grew by 10.64% in the same period, indicating a notable rise in internet usage across the country.

MTN commented on this growth, noting, “Data revenue grew by 36.4% on increased usage and data conversion in new and existing base.” Data usage on the MTN network increased by 29.1%, reaching 8.6GB per user. The number of smartphones on the network increased by 7.6%, resulting in a smartphone penetration rate of 53.4%.

The surge in data consumption, particularly due to increased video streaming, contributed to telecom consumers spending N3.86 trillion on telecom services in 2022, marking an 18.74% increase from the N3.25 trillion spent in 2021. Data usage in the country experienced a significant 46.77% increase, reaching 518,381.78TB in 2022.

The telecommunications sector anticipates continued growth in data consumption, with predictions that data revenues will surpass voice revenues in the coming years. The World Bank attributes growth in the ICT sector to increased consumption of data services by households and businesses, coupled with higher subscriber numbers.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report (June 2023), Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to witness the highest growth in total mobile data traffic, rising by 37% annually between 2022 and 2028. This growth will be driven by increased investment in 4G networks and the migration of customers from 2G and 3G. The report forecasts a fourfold increase in smartphone traffic, with average data per active smartphone reaching 19GB per month in 2028.

Adeolu Ogunbanjo, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, emphasized the significant impact of online activities in 2021, driven by factors such as remote work and increased online transactions, contributing to the growth of telecom infrastructure.


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