Telecoms operators’ market share drops as 110m lines become inactive

Telecoms<br />

Airtel Africa secures $200m for mobile money investment
• MTN to rehabilitate strategic Enugu-Onitsha highway

About 110 million telephone lines were inactive nationwide as of the first half of the year. Consequently, the development resulted in a drop in the market share of players.

Subscription statistics released yesterday by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed that since the telecommunications revolution began in Nigeria some 20 years ago, GSM operators have connected 297.3 million lines, out of which only 187.3 million are active, leaving behind about 110 million inactive lines.

Findings by The Guardian indicated that some of the things responsible for the situation include competition among operators, obsolete infrastructure, innovation, and drop/lack of disposable income owing to the economic downturn that had forced many to stick to one or two lines.

It is interesting to mention that in the first half of 2021, the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile shed 12.6 million telephones. While their combined subscribers stood at 200.2 million as of January, the tally fell to 187.6 million as of June.

MTN had announced in its unaudited financial report as of June 30, that its mobile subscribers declined by 7.6 million to 68.9 million, impacted by the regulatory restrictions on new SIM sales and activations, as directed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami.

Further breakdown of the data revealed that Nigeria’s teledensity dropped by 6.61 per cent from 104.89 per cent at the beginning of the year to 98.28 per cent by June end.

Teledensity is the number of telephone connections for every hundred individuals living within an area. It varies widely across nations and also between urban and rural areas within a country. Telephone density has a significant correlation with the per capita GDP of an area.

Internet connections on both the narrowband (GSM) and broadband also slumped within the period under review. Operators lost 11.1 million users using the GSM platform to surf the net. As of January, there were 151.3 million Internet users, but the figure dropped to 140.2 million by June.

Broadband connections, which were 81.9 million (42.93 per cent) in January, plummeted to 76.3 million (39.97 per cent), losing 5.6 million users.

The statistics put MTN’s market share in Nigeria at 39.28 per cent, Airtel with 50.7 million users, has 27.1 per cent share, Globacom with 50.1 million subscribers, had 26.77 per cent penetration. 9mobile’s 12.9 million users accounted for 6.89 per cent market reach.

In a related development, Airtel Africa Plc has secured a $200 million investment from Qatar Holding LLC to boost its mobile money arm.

According to a statement by the company, the proceeds would be deployed to defray debts, as well as invest in network and sales infrastructure across its host nations.

The move comes three months after MasterCard invested $100 million in the firm’s mobile money business.

Qatar Holding LLC is an affiliate of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar with over $300 billion in assets.

Chief Executive Officer of QIA, Mansoor Al-Mahmoud, noted: “The sovereign wealth fund investment in Airtel Africa would help promote financial inclusion in sub-Saharan Africa.”

CEO, Airtel Africa, Raghunath Mandava, said the company was pleased to welcome QIA as a prospective investor in its mobile money business, joining both MasterCard and TPG’s The Rise Fund as a further partner “to help realise the full potential from the substantial opportunity to bank the unbanked across Africa.”

In another development, MTN Nigeria, as part of a move to celebrate its 20th anniversary in the country, said its Board of Directors had approved its participation in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit (RITC) scheme and will be rehabilitating the 100-kilometre Enugu-Onitsha Expressway.

The strategic highway connects the South East and South-South regions through the Niger Bridge, linking Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi states, as well as the North via Benue and Kogi states.

Over the years, this all-important road, home to heavy vehicular traffic, has been in a very deplorable state.

In a statement, the telecoms firm said: “We intend to participate in the restoration and refurbishment of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. Conversations in this regard have already commenced. Further announcements will be made in due course.”

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