Internet subscriptions in Nigeria seem to have sustained a downward profile, as about 1, 275, 573 consumers appeared to have fallen off the radar in one month. This is going by the recently released Subscribers’ Statistics for the month of February by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Specifically, in the last three months ending in February, operators appeared to be losing subscribers at the end of every 31 days. For instance, the figure, which fluctuated between 93.1 million and 92.4 million between October and November 2016 respectively, declined to 91.8 million in December, meaning that the service providers lost 536,346 subscribers within the period.
The continuous downward profile could pose a big threat to Federal Government’s target of 80 per cent Internet penetration and 30 per cent broadband target set for 2018 across the country. This is even as about 207 communities with about 40 million people residing have been discovered newly not to have access to any telecommunications services.
By January ending, the players have lost 605,586 subscribers as a result of the difference between 91.88 million in December and January figure of 91.27 million. The loss came to 1.27 million at the end of February because of the fall from 91.27 million to 89.99 million.
Further analysis of the NCC statistics revealed that the Internet users on both GSM technology platforms and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), networks dropped from 91,304,755 in January to 90,029,182 in February.
It also showed that, of the 90,029,182 Internet users in February, 89,998,873 were on GSM networks, while 30,309 were on CDMA networks.
The data revealed that MTN had 30,300,705 subscribers browsing the Internet on its network in the month under review. MTN recorded a drop of 714,700 subscribers in February after recording 31,015,405 in January.
According to the data, Globacom had 26,932,485 customers surfing the net on its network in February, revealing a decline of 143,787 users from the 27,076,272 who surfed the internet on the network in January.
Airtel had 19,468,684 Internet users in February, reducing by 149,801, and the number of customers in its January record of 19,618,485.
The data also showed that Etisalat had 13,296,999 customers who browsed the internet in February. It recorded a decrease of 267,285 users from the 13,564,284 users it recorded in January.
The NCC data revealed that the CDMA operators, Multi-Links and Visafone, had a joint total of 30,309 Internet users on their networks in February, maintaining their January record.
Commenting on the slide, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, in a telephone interview with The Guardian, said it was unfortunate that at a time like this, Nigeria is experiencing a dip in penetration.
Ogunbanjo said as nation, there is a need to develop policies that would bring people online because it is going to be positive on the economy.
“A situation where government is considering increase in data price and imposition of nine per cent Communication Service Tax (CST) on users should be discouraged totally. Once again, we are saying data price should fall,” he stated.
Ogunbanjo, who also stressed that the economic situation in the country is also having negative impact on subscribers, noted that users are not discarding their SIMs, “they rather do welcome back with the operators if need be.”
According to him, the figure would continue to fluctuate until there is a kind of stability in the economy and availability of disposable income.
Like Ogunbanjo, another telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, said the huge drop could be as a result of the biting economic times in the country that has seen a huge drop in the living standards of Nigerians and a diversion of resources towards food and other essentials for survival.
Beyond the issue of economic challenges, The Guardian also gathered that it could be that Internet subscribers are jettison the services of the quartet of MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, which they considered not being reliable and which still run majorly on narrow-band to operators, whose core businesses are data services like Spectranet, Smile, Swift, nTel and others.
Meanwhile, the Internet Society said the slowdown in Internet growth rates, particularly in regions that were already falling behind the global average, lends urgency to the group’s objective to connect the unconnected.
Internet Society, which reported a 15 per cent fall in Internet users across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), noted that there was evidence that existing users are increasingly concerned about privacy and security issues worldwide, and this may start to spill over to new users, who might become more reluctant to go online.
According to it, there have been reported cases of data breaches, which also necessitated the issue of online trust.
“If people trust the Internet, they are more likely to use it. Trust is at the heart of the Internet economy, and more and more at the heart of economic growth. This lends urgency to our objective to promote and restore trust in the Internet.
“Users are increasingly aware of privacy and security issues in general, and specifically in relation to data breaches. The number of reported data breaches is increasing, while the full extent of breaches is unknown. The data shows the trend is for outside hackers to attack organisations to gather data for identity theft, which is a direct attack on the organisations’ users.”