Mobile Internet Surges As Broadband Penetration Decelerates

Despite the country’s broadband penetration slowing down to 48.14 percent, the number of mobile internet subscriptions continued to grow, reaching 157.67 million in April 2023.

In April, the country experienced a decrease of 674,862 broadband subscriptions, which affected its goal of achieving higher broadband penetration in 2023. This decline marks the second consecutive month of falling broadband penetration after reaching a record high of 48.49 percent in February 2023, following a consistent increase from 42.24 percent in March 2022.

According to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission, the total number of mobile subscriptions also decreased to 223.34 million from 226.84 million in February 2023. Teledensity, which represents the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants, also dropped to 117.17 percent.

Despite the overall decline in the sector, mobile internet subscriptions showed resilience, reaching an all-time high of 157.67 million, establishing itself as the primary means of accessing the internet for many Nigerians.

The GSMA report titled ‘The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2022’ states that Nigerians heavily rely on mobile phones to access the internet. The report highlights the significant economic benefits, poverty reduction, and life-transforming services that mobile internet access provides.

By the end of 2021, approximately 40 percent of the adult population in Sub-Saharan Africa had subscribed to mobile internet services, indicating an increase from the 35 percent at the start of the pandemic. However, this figure still falls considerably behind the global average of 70 percent.

Although there has been a decline in broadband penetration, it is anticipated that Nigeria will achieve its 50 percent target for 2023. The recent drop in broadband penetration aligns with a temporary cash shortage that affected access to telecom services for some individuals.

MTN Nigeria’s first-quarter report acknowledged the impact of limited cash availability on customers’ ability to recharge through physical airtime vouchers and over-the-counter transactions, especially for those without access to digital recharge channels.

In the ‘Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025)’ policy document, the government defines broadband as a high-speed internet connection and measures penetration based on the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. The document emphasizes that increasing internet penetration will contribute to job creation, poverty reduction, economic growth, improved digital literacy, and educational standards in the country.

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