Confirming what a lot of people might have guessed given the events of recent years, Nigerian regulator the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently reported an increase of over 200 per cent in data usage over the last three years in the country.
In fact Punch newspaper reported NCC figures showing that data usage jumped from 68,154.12 terabytes in 2018 to 125,149.86 terabytes in 2019. In 2020 it hit 205,880.4 terabytes.
Inevitably much of this growth was down to Covid-19 changing peoples' approaches to communication. But better 4G networks across the country may also have had a role to play, as suggested in a report from operator Airtel Nigeria, which pointed out that its own improved 4G service had helped to boost data traffic, smartphone penetration, data customer numbers, and data volumes, resulting in greater data consumption per customer.
Figures suggest that the country’s broadband penetration currently stands at 45.02 per cent, a huge leap from the 37.8 per cent recorded in 2019. Much of this is driven by mobile communications as fixed connectivity is not widely accessible in Nigeria.
The number of 4G connections has now reached 36,538,228 from 21,712,218 in 2019. The total number of 3G connections is higher – at 49,402,994 – but down from 2019 (though still higher than 2018).
What the report refers to as GSM internet subscriber numbers rose from 100,234,283 in January 2018 to 153,873,786 in December 2020 – a growth rate of more than 50 per cent.
Will this growth continue? It seems likely. The only interruption could come from better fixed connectivity, but that would still probably be more costly than mobile, even if it could be enabled.