Mobile coverage

The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) data for the month of September 2018 estimated there were 161,685,747 mobile subscribers with a Teledensity of 115.76 percent (defined as the number of active telephone connections per one hundred inhabitants living within an area). According to this data, MTN is the largest mobile network provider in Nigeria with 64,160,404 subscribers followed by Airtel with 41,313,633, Globacom with 40,856,649 and 9Mobile with 15,355,061. Other mobile providers have a negligible subscriber base. Furthermore, NCC data shows that MTN is the leading mobile network provider in Nigeria with a market share of 40 percent followed by Airtel with 26 percent, Globacom with 25 percent and 9Mobile with 9 percent. In the same vein, the NCC’s Market Share by Technology, which shows the percentage of subscribers utilising telecommunication services with regards to the various technology in use in the Nigerian telecommunication sector, confirmed that the market is dominated by GSM. Mobile GSM comprises 99.70 percent while mobile CDMA, Fixed Wireless/wired and Voip have their share at 0.1 percent.

In terms of Mobile Portability Number trends, NCC data indicates that 6,877 mobile subscribers ported from one network provider to another in the month of July 2018. Among these, 9Mobile has the most ported subscribers with 3,136 followed by MTN, 1,836, Airtel, 1172 and Globacom, 733.

However, the telecommunication network coverage is largely limited to urban areas, while network services in rural areas are either poor or non-existent. It is estimated that one-third of the Nigerian population has no access to telecom network services and hence are excluded from telecommunication services. While there are attempts to bridge this digital gap through the Nigerian government’s rural telephony project, the outcome has been largely unsuccessful. A National Rural telephony project conceived under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, through a US$200m concessionary loan from China, was met with challenges and did not achieve its objectives. However, some individual network providers have embarked on independent rural telephony projects but the cost of providing service to rural areas and poor Return on Investment (ROI) have discouraged investments in this aspect. The situation is worse in the Northeast of Nigeria where Boko Haram and Herdsmen/Farmers conflicts have discouraged deployment of telecommunication infrastructure.

The Northeast is also identified as one of the regions lagging in terms of digital inclusion in Nigeria. Specifically, women are the most affected in the Northeast and Northwest regions of Nigeria. This is at least partly linked to the low access to education for young girls in the region, often due to early marriage, which affects their level of both traditional and digital literacy. These factors in turn have influenced the digital exclusion of women in Nigeria.