In the third quarter of 2023, two prominent mobile network operators in Nigeria, MTN and Airtel, reaped the rewards of surging data consumption as they collectively earned N403.2 billion from data services.
MTN, Nigeria’s largest telecom operator in terms of subscribers, reported N279.5 billion in data revenue between July and September this year, signifying a substantial 38.9% increase compared to the N201.1 billion recorded in the same period the previous year.
Airtel Nigeria, as indicated in Airtel Africa’s financial report for the third quarter of 2023, boasted N123.7 billion ($157 million) in data subscription earnings, reflecting an impressive 29.3% growth in data revenue for the company.
Rising Data Consumption Drives Growth
Both MTN and Airtel attributed their remarkable data revenue growth to the escalating data consumption by their customers.
MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Karl Toriola, highlighted that the upsurge in data usage was facilitated by the overhaul of MTN data bundle offerings, increased smartphone adoption, and substantial investments in network expansion, coverage enhancement, and capacity augmentation to elevate the customer experience.
Toriola stated, “Our 4G network now covers 80.5% of the population, up from 79.1% in December 2022. Data usage (GB per user) grew by 29.1% to 8.6GB, and the number of smartphones on our network increased by 7.6%, bringing smartphone penetration to 53.4%, up 1. Consequently, we recorded a 46.3% growth in data traffic, with the 4G network accounting for 83.7% of the total traffic.”
Segun Ogunsanya, the CEO of Airtel Africa, also acknowledged a significant upswing in data consumption during the review period for Airtel Nigeria.
“Airtel Nigeria’s data revenue grew by 29.3% in constant currency, driven by data customer base growth of 17.4% and data Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) growth of 12.3%. Data usage per customer increased by 23.8% to 5.9GB per month (from 4.8GB in the prior period). Our continued 4G network rollout has resulted in nearly 100% of all our sites delivering 4G services,” he noted.
Furthermore, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) disclosed that internet users in Nigeria consumed 655,879.86 terabytes of data in August 2023, reflecting a consistent rise in data consumption. In August, data usage marked a 6.6% increase compared to 615,207.39 terabytes consumed in July, despite a slight decline in internet subscriptions from 159.5 million in July to 159 million in August 2023. This data emphasizes the growing reliance on digital connectivity and data services in Nigeria.
The data revenue surge for MTN and Airtel signifies the pivotal role of data services in Nigeria’s evolving telecom landscape, driven by increased smartphone adoption and expanded network coverage.