MTN Nigeria has maintained its lead in the mobile internet space, gaining a total of 5,054,192 internet subscribers in 2017. The company started 2017 with 31 million subscribers and ended with 36 million in its kitty.  Airtel, the 3rd largest, also had a good year as it added 4,366,788 subscribers opening with 19.6 million subscribers and ending 2017 with 23,985,203 subscribers.

Globacom, the 2nd largest GSM operator, began the year with 27,076,272 and ended with 26,997,817, losing a total of 78,455 subscribers. 9Mobile (formerly known as Etisalat)brought up the rear, losing 2,225,445 subscribers in 2017. The troubled telco started the year with 13.5 million subscribers and ended with 11.3 million subscribers.

In all, 7,077,010 subscribers were added in 2017, bringing the total number of subscribers to 98,391,456. Data for Ntel, Nigeria’s fourth GSM operator, is not provided, indicating that its size may be negligible.

Discounting factor

The number of GSM subscribers may be slightly lower as consumers often use several operators simultaneously, in a bid to counter poor service.

Behind the data

MTN continues to maintain its dominant space among Nigeria’s GSM operators, with 36.7% of the entire GSM internet subscribers in the country. The company continues to reap benefits from its first mover advantage and wide network across the country.

Globacom may have to re-strategise, in order to maintain its number 2 position. Airtel narrowed the gap between itself and Globacom in 2017. If it maintains the momentum in 2018, it could overtake Globacom to become the telco with the second largest number of internet subscribers in a few years. The company appears not only to have gained new subscribers but may have been the net gainer from 9Mobile’s woes.

9Mobile, formerly known as Etisalat, had a turbulent 2017 as the news of its defaulting on a loan granted by a consortium of banks broke. The banks moved to take over the firm but were restrained by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The longer the bid process for the telco is delayed, the more subscribers it may continue to lose. The uncertainty surrounding the company has led several subscribers to port, in the fear that it could lead to a drop in service.

Ntel’s miniscule size compared to other GSM operators may have been the driver of its national roaming agreement with 9Mobile signed in December last year.

For GSM firms in the country, the profit margins on data revenue are much higher compared to voice revenue. Losing a large number of subscribers could lead to an even greater loss on the bottom line.

Onome Ohwovoriole has a degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Benin and prior to joining Nairametrics in December 2016 as Lead Analyst had stints in Publishing, Automobile Services, Entertainment and Leadership Training. He covers companies in the Nigerian corporate space, especially those listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). He also has a keen interest in new frontiers like Cryptocurrencies and Fintech. In his spare time he loves to read books on finance, fiction as well as keep up with happenings in the world of international diplomacy.

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