The Nigerian telecommunication industry recorded significant growth in the year 2020, as Nigerians consumed a total of 205,880.4 terabytes worth of data in the year. This is according to the 2020 subscriber/network data report released by the Nigerian Communications Commission.
Using the average cost of 1GB of data at N487.18, as announced by the NCC in 2020, Nigerians spent at least N100.3 billion on internet data in the review year.
According to the report, data usage in 2020 increased from 123,648 terabytes recorded in 2019 to 205,880.4 terabytes, representing a 66.5% increase during the review period. The report also outlined that broadband penetration peaked at 45.93% within the year.
A cursory look at the report revealed that revenue generated by GSM operators increased by 12.33% from N2.02 trillion recorded in the previous year to N2.27 trillion in the review period, while internet service providers generated a sum of N68.96 billion in revenues, up 28.31% compared to N53.75 billion recorded in 2019.
A disaster turned blessing for telcos
The significant surge in the volume of internet data consumed in 2020 can be hugely attributed to the lockdown measures put in place by the Federal Government in response to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the lockdown, Nigerian businesses were forced to be innovative and design working models that operated virtually, basically depending on the internet to carry out their day-to-day activities. This increased the usage of the internet as meetings, negotiations, and official functions were moved to virtual platforms.
Also, seminars were converted to webinars. Most organizations used online virtual platforms such as Zoom, and Teams amongst others to facilitate webinars and their annual general meetings (AGM), which of course depended on the use of internet data, both on the part of the organisation and individual listeners.
In the entertainment scene, the internet played a major role, as many social media comedians took the stage to feed Nigerians with comedy skits on their various social media handles as the lockdown kept people at home, thereby fetching the content developers returns as Nigerians continued to stream these contents. Similarly, music concerts were also moved online during this period of the pandemic.
What the NCC said
The report partly reads, “The Nigerian Telecom Industry witnessed significant growth that impacted positively in spite of the recession brought about by COVID-19. The sector lifted the economy out of recession in the fourth quarter of 2020, contributing 12.45% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
It also highlighted that mobile network operators (MNOs) received massive investments in the 4G rollout of services, which resulted in improved growth.
“The increase in data usage is directly linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted normal activities, and most functions had to be held virtually including schools, Corporate Meetings etc.,” the report stated further.
Meanwhile, as of the end of December 2020, out of a total of 546,023 users via ISPs, 4,032 users subscribed to speeds between 256Kbps and 2Mbps, representing 0.7% of the total user base; 21,985 users between 2 and 10Mbps, representing 4% of the total user base; and 520,006 subscriptions in the 10mbps & above category, which makes 95% of the total.
Similarly, the total number of active internet subscriptions increased from 125.98 million subscriptions as of December 2019 to 154.29 million by the end of December 2020, representing an increase of 22.5%.