Lagos, Uyo — THE Global System for Mobile communications Association (GSMA) has put the actual number of mobile telephone subscribers in Nigeria at 51.1 million based on 'unique subscription', which is a 29 per cent penetration of the country's population estimated to be about 170 million.
Unique subscription, according to the GSMA refers to users who have subscribed to mobile services at the end of the period, excluding M2M. It stressed that subscribers differ from connections such that a unique user can have multiple connections, which has been the case in Nigeria.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The body spans more than 220 countries, uniting nearly 800 of the world's mobile operators with 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities.
The 51.1 million figure may not have been in tandem with statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which had consistently showed increases in mobile phone penetration in the country based on connections and not individual, with the latest figure showing that there are over 129 million active mobile telephone users in Nigeria from about 177 million connected lines within the last 13 years of the country's telecommunications revolution. NCC's statistics also put the country's teledensity at 92.4 per cent.
However, the report by the Intelligence Unit of the GSMA obtained by The Guardian on Monday, disclosed that only 29 per cent of the country's connected lines are unique to subscribers with a projection that by 2014 it will be 32 per cent.
The report, which puts the country's unique subscriber base at 51.1 million, projected 58 million users by end of the year.
Tracing the growth of Nigeria's mobile sector from 2010 to 2014, the 41 page report puts active mobile connections in the country at 87 million; 95 million; 113 million; 127 million and 145 million with 36.5 million; 39.2 million; 45.4 million; 51.1 million and 58 million unique subscriptions respectively.
GSMA also disclosed that the percentage penetration by connections within the periods were 54 per cent; 57 per cent; 66 per cent; 72 per cent and 80 per cent, while the unique user subscriptions were 23 per cent; 24 per cent; 27 per cent; 29 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.
Furthermore, the association puts yearly connections growth within the period respectively at 19 per cent; nine per cent; 19 per cent; twelve per cent and 14 per cent with yearly unique subscriptions stood at 14 per cent; seven per cent; 16 per cent; 13 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.
In terms of ARPU, which is the total recurring (service) revenue generated per
unique subscriber per month in the period. Different from ARPU by connection, ARPU by subscriber is a measure of each unique user's spend, GSMA put the figure per connections respectively at $7; $7; $6 and $6, while according to it, average individual ARPU were $17; $16; $15 and $17.
Indeed, before now, telecoms experts had faulted the increasing NCC figure, which they described as not corresponding with real number of users of mobile telephone in the country.
They have cautioned that the current approach being used by the commission by calculating telephone penetration based number of telephone lines and not based on the actual number of people using telephones, saying it was capable of impeding investment in the sector.
In an interview with journalists in Lagos recently, a former President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Titi Omo-Ettu, had observed that while the country continues to have increase in the number of telephone lines being used in the country, "attention should be given to the actual number of people using those telephone lines to determine actual telephone penetration in the country."
This position maintained by Omo- Ettu then as a second-term ATCON President, also finds expression in MTN's observation at a stakeholders' event in Lagos last year. Speaking at the forum, the Corporate Services Executive, MTN, Wale Goodluck, had observed that "Nigeria is a 'multi-SIMming' telecoms market, where an individual carries an average of two, three and, sometimes, four telephone lines about."
Adducing reason for the multi-SiMming nature of the nation's telecoms sector, President, National Association of telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo said: "The multi-SIMming attitude of most Nigerians can be traced to the fact that they want to have unhindered access to telephone services; so when one network fails, he can use the other one to make call. "Reduced cost of making calls by an operator will also, most likely, make people not yet using such network to get the line on the network doing the promo. As such, we now have one person carrying multiple phones about."
The GSMA report, which was authored by the trio of Emerging Market Analysts, Akanksha Sharma; Barbara Arese Lucini and Lead Analyst, Tim Hatt noted that limited broadband penetration in Nigeria presents a big opportunity for the mobile industry, especially since landline services are virtually absent in the market.
They observed that multiple SIMming is close to two SIMs per subscriber which means that despite 92 per cent teledensity, there still are enough gaps in basic telephony, which is waiting to be filled by mobile services.
For niche operators, the report noted that the paucity of metro fibre infrastructure presents a significant opportunity to expand data and broadband services.
"However there a number of challenges ranging from unreliable public electricity supply to arbitrary and incessant disruption of telecoms facilities and operations by individuals and groups and also Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that impose unreasonable demands on operators.
"Bureaucratic and rather 'rent-seeking' administration of planning and other approval processes must be addressed. Theft, vandalism and outright sabotage of fibre cables and frequent fibre cut incidents strangle network capacity and hamper quality of service in the country even further", the report noted.