Telecom Subscribers Decline in First Quarter of 2017


Subscribers to telecommunications services in Nigeria decline in the first quarter of 2017

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 22, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

NIGERIA telecommunications GSM subscribers have declined in the first quarter of 2017. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS, in the first quarter of 2017, the total number of GSM subscribers was 151,999,197, which was 2,125,405 less than in December 2016, equivalent to a decrease of 1.38 percent. This was the first quarterly decline since March 2016.

The quarterly growth rate of the telecoms sector has been declining since September 2016 when it was 2.45 percent. A similar pattern was seen in the months leading to March 2016, which may indicate the emergence of a seasonal pattern, although this will become clearer as more data becomes available. Compared to the previous year there were 4,600,343 more subscribers, an increase of 3.12 percent.

 “The total number of subscribers has increased rapidly over the past decade. At the end of 2005 there were 19,519,154 subscribers, but by the end of 2016 there were 154,529,780, which is equivalent to an increase of 12,273,693 every year. However, growth has been declining recently, possibly resulting from high market penetration leaving less room for large expansion.  In March 2017 – the end of the first quarter – there were 152,467,198 subscribers, which represents a quarterly decline of 1.33 percent.

“Along with declines in the first half of 2016, this indicates that growth has become less consistent after years of nearly uninterrupted growth. Year on year, however, there was still an increase of 2.5 percent; a larger increase than at the end of any quarter since March 2016, reflecting the increases seen throughout the second half of 2016. Part of this growth arose from the inclusion of new providers. In the last quarter, the NCC began recording data for a new technology type, ‘VoIP.’ Whereas in the last report data was only available for Smile, this quarter data for NTEL has also been included.

“The quarterly and yearly growth rates without these new providers would have been 1.38 percent and 2.44 percent, respectively. The numbers of subscribers with NTEL and Smile remain small, possibly due to the service being newer. According to the data provided by the NCC, there was no change in the number of CDMA or Fixed wireless subscribers relative to the previous quarter. In contrast, both GSM and Fixed wired subscriber numbers fell, by 1.38 percent and 1.58 percent, respectively.

“However, due to the much larger number of GSM subscribers, this technology type is the main driver of movements in the total numbers of subscribers. The quarterly increase in VoIP subscriber numbers was 195.89 percent, or nearly triple from 33,099 subscribers in December 2016 to 97,935 in March 2017. Year on year, both CDMA and Fixed Wireless subscriber numbers fell greatly by 81.41 percent and 47.72 percent respectively. However, growth was buoyed by a 3.12 percent increase in the number of GSM subscribers, and the introduction to the data of the VoIP technology type.”

According to the NBS, Airtel was the only GSM provider to record an increase in the number of subscribers relative to the previous quarter, of 1.58 percent, which means this provider recorded the highest growth rate for the second consecutive quarter. Their number increased by 540,196 to reach 34,656,605 between December 2016 and March 2017.

The report released on Wednesday, May 10, stated that this was nevertheless lower than the quarterly growth rate of 4.09 percent recorded in December 2016. Although the other three providers recorded decreases in their numbers over this period, the decrease recorded by Globacom was slight. With 37,328,827 subscribers, Globacom had 29,016 fewer subscribers in March 2017 than in December 2016, a decrease of only 0.08 percent.

In percentage terms, it said Etisalat recorded the largest decline for the third consecutive month of 5.71 percent compared to 2.34 percent for MTN. However, given that MTN has significantly more subscribers, with 60,391,959 in March 2017 compared to 19,621,806 for Etisalat, their monthly decrease was larger in absolute terms. MTN lost 1,448,502 subscribers relative to December 2016, compared to a loss of 1,188,083 for Etisalat.

“Year on year the trends were notably different. Etisalat was the only provider to record a decrease in subscriber numbers relative to March 2016, of 2,255,736, or 10.31 percent. This sets this provider apart from the others considerably; the provider to see the second lowest year on year growth was Airtel with growth of 2.33 percent, or nearly 13 percent points higher than Etisalat’s. Globacom and MTN recorded year on year growth in subscriber numbers of 7.86 percent and 5.87 percent, respectively, which corresponds to an increase of 2,720,034 to reach 37,328,827 for Globacom, and an increase of 3,346,238 to reach 60,391959 for MTN.

“As with CDMA subscribers, there was no change in the number of fixed wireless line subscriptions between December 2016 and March 2017 according to the NCC; in each period, there were 26,865. Compared to March of the previous year, there was a drop of 24,518, or a 47.72 percent decline. Neither provider of fixed wireless line subscriptions recorded any change relative to the previous quarter, according to the NCC data. Multilinks continued to record 428 subscribers, and Visafone continued to record 26,437. This has been the case since November 2016. Consequently, since this time Visafone’s share of fixed wireless line subscribers has been 98.41 percent. Year on year however, Visafone lost 23,159 subscribers, a decrease of 46.70 percent, and Multilinks lost 1,359, a decrease of 76.05 percent,” the report said.

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