Nigerians consumed 353,118 terabytes of data in 2021, 68.2% higher than 2020

Afeez Odunoye
…Stakeholders are predicting a further increase in consumption this year
Nigerians consumed 353,118.89 terabytes of data in 2021.

Nigerians and foreigners within the country consumed 353,118.89 terabytes of data in 2021, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Technext found that the data was consumed between January and December 2021 and represent “an increase of 68.2% in data consumption when compared with the year ended December 2020.”

The figure comes from the regulatory body’s new report on subscriber/network data for the year 2021.

Nigerians and other nationals within the country consumed 353,118.89 terabytes of data in 2021. NCC
Nigerians and other nationals within the country consumed 353,118.89 terabytes of data in 2021. NCC

This is despite an 8% decrease in internet subscriptions in the year.

In the 12-month period leading to the report, January – December 2020, consumption in the country stood at 209,917.40 terabytes of data.

Affected by the directive from NCC in December 2020 to all GSM Operators to suspend the sale and registration of new SIMs, SIM swaps, and all porting activities, subscriptions for internet decreased from 154.3 million as of December 2020 to 141.9 million as of December 2021.

The increase in the volume of data consumption by the subscribers, however, covered the network operators in terms of revenue. This is reflected in the 2021 financial results of two of the leading network operators, MTN and Airtel, which showed a surge in earnings from data.

MTN and Airtel led on the chart-bearing operators that enabled active internet subscriptions in 2021. NCC

MTN, for instance, recorded a 55% increase in data revenue for the year as it raked in ₦516 billion from its internet customers. Airtel Nigeria also raked in ₦304 billion as data revenue for the year, representing a 41.1% increase.

The two operators acknowledged that their 4G expansion across the country was the driving force for the increase in data usage by their customers.

More highlights from the 2021 Subscriber/Network Data Annual Report

  • The NCC says the subscriber number decreased from 204,601,313 subscribers in 2020 to 195,463,898 active voice subscriptions as of December 2021 with a loss of 9,137,415 subscriptions. This represents about a 4.46% decline in total subscriptions within the period under consideration.
  • The decrease in Operators’ subscriber base was attributed majorly to the effect of the directive from NCC in December 2020 to all GSM Operators to suspend the sale and registration of new SIMs, SIM swaps and all porting activities. The objective of the audit exercise was to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission.
  • Broadband Penetration decreased from 45.02% as of December 2020 to 40.88% as of December 2021. Similarly, Broadband Subscriptions decreased from 85,941,222 subscriptions in December 2020 to 78,041,883 subscriptions as of December 2021.
  • According to the NCC, foreign direct investment into the telecoms industry was $417.48m in 2021.
  • Nigeria`s teledensity decreased from 107.18% as of December 2020 to 102.40% by December 31st 2021.

Reactions from stakeholders

Commenting on the growth in telecoms usage, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, told The Punch, “The year 2020 was the real COVID-19 period and people were trying to graduate online.

“In 2021, there was a full blast in online activity. Working from home, an increase in online economic and commercial transactions which were all on telecoms infrastructure. This growth was meant to be. 2021 witnessed an uptake in online activities as people had to use their devices online.

“Data usage and calls increased. The growth might be stunted in 2022 because about 70 million subscribers cannot make calls presently. Perhaps data, yes. But the implementation of the SIM-NIN policy will have its effect.”

The Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Ajibola Olude, mentioned that “there are many factors that are responsible for the increase in the usage of telecom services, one of them is that telecom services now drive productivity.

“If you go to any sector today, their growth, their productivity is driven by telecom services. For instance, hospitality, banking, and insurance. Telecoms is showing its ability to serve all the sectors of the economy. This growth is expected in 2022 due to the anticipated increase in the adoption of telecom services.”

Why are Nigerians consuming more data?

For some demographic groups – such as teenagers and young adults, secondary school students, undergraduates, post-graduates and high-income households – data usage is near ubiquitous.

The proportion of Nigerians with high-speed broadband service at home increased rapidly in 2020 because more people saw the internet as the saviour of the human race – and the internet hardly disappointed. Now, that growth is much more sporadic among younger Nigerians because the internet provides more sources of income. The only hindrance will be decreasing purchasing power.

Yet, there are other factors that contribute to high usage, and much of it comes down to frequent activity. More Nigerians own devices – smartphones, computers, tablets, and security camera that are constantly running, so, usage will be high.

Other factors include automatic app syncing and updating to the cloud, consumption of video content, music streaming, downloading movies, etc.


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