The Biggest Telco In Nigeria Is Bleeding Internet Subscribers & Losing Market Share – Here’s Why

By  |  October 8, 2019

MTN Is Bleeding Internet Subscribers In Nigeria

For the second time in under a year, the numbers are reflecting that the biggest telco in Nigeria is losing internet subscribers by the numbers.

It was only in June this year that data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reflected that MTN Nigeria, by far the biggest player in Nigeria’s telco sector, lost 178,103 internet subscribers that very month.

Well, it appears things have gone further downhill for the Nigerian subsidiary of the SA-born firm in that regard. The latest data from the telecoms regulatory body shows that MTN Nigeria lost a record 667,243 internet subscribers in just one month.

What The Numbers Really Say

MTN had a total of 52.2 million internet subscribers as of July 2019, according to data obtained from the NCC. But that number dropped to 51.6 million in August — that’s a loss of over half a million internet subscribers in the space of 30 days.

During that same period, NCC data shows that total internet subscribers in the country dropped by less than 100,000 to 122.5 million from 122.6 million.

This relatively small dip is, thus, not responsible for the large number of internet subscribers MTN lost during the same period. It does look like Nigerians are beginning to increasingly prefer other internet options and MTN is losing favour in the eyes of the average Nigerian GSM internet subscriber.

So, Why Is MTN Losing Internet Subscribers?

Despite the recent struggles with keeping its internet subscribers, MTN still remains the network with the highest GSM subscribers with 42 percent of the total market share in Nigeria.

And because it is outdoing everyone else with its sheer numbers, MTN can afford to offer the cheapest internet data bundles in Nigeria. On paper, this should be a subscriber-magnet but in reality, that is not the case.

“My main line is MTN but I don’t browse with it,” says Oluchi Okeke, an inventory officer at The Solar Shop Lagos and MTN user since 2009.

“Even though it is cheap, the data doesn’t last and I end up subscribing multiple times in a week. My 2GB monthly bundle vanishes in three or four days.”

The words of that long-standing MTN user may just sum up why the telcos internet subscribers are fleeing in droves. While its data bundles are quite cheap and its network fairly good, it may be the charge per kilobyte of data consumed that is driving subscribers away.

While MTN data bundles are relatively the cheapest to buy in Nigeria, that advantage is hampered by the fact that data bundles from MTN are also very likely to be exhausted faster than others because of the telco’s rate per kilobyte consumed.

This is probably why an increasing number of Nigerians are preferring other networks for their internet needs, even though the greater number of Nigerians have MTN lines as their main GSM SIM.

And that’s because it makes more economic sense to pay a little more for something that would last longer than pay less for something of arguably the same quantity and quality that won’t last as long.

Who Is Gaining From MTN’s Losses?

MTN’s internet subscribers exodus has been aggravated by the fact that the other players in the market have improved their networks and found a balance for the internet data charges.

Telcos like Airtel Nigeria and Globacom Nigeria may still not be able to boast MTN’s current numbers but it sure looks like they are fast-gaining on the leaders. This can be attributed to their offer of internet bundles that are still relatively cheap — even though not as cheap as MTN’s — and which serves users for longer.

In August, Airtel Nigeria gained 350,134 internet subscribers, the only internet service subscribers that recorded a positive growth alongside Visafone with 83,482 internet subscribers.

It should be noted that 9mobile has continued to lose subscribers for the past 2 years. In August, 9mobile lost another 176,575 internet subscribers.

Is MTN Losing Its Grip On The Telecoms Market In Nigeria?

Having overtaken Globacom Nigeria a few months back, Airtel Nigeria currently holds a position as the internet provider with the second-largest number of subscribers.

Source: NCC

MTN currently maintains the biggest market share, though the competition is certainly growing stiffer. While MTN formerly had 40 percent of the market share, current statistics show MTN now controls 37.2 percent, estimated to be 65.7 million subscribers.

According to the NCC’s latest data, Airtel controls 27.13 percent (47.9 million) of the total market share, Globacom with 26.76 percent (47.2 million) market share while 9mobile market share still remains at 9 percent (15.6 million).

Featured Image Courtesy: Geeky Nigeria

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