Data Wars: Episode II — MTN is losing mobile subscribers

by | Jun 10, 2016

With the current data prices, Glo seems to be winning the Data Wars. Going by reactions gotten so far from Nigerians, I can say customers are more than happy with the slash in the prices of data but the real war started last year when customers began migrating between telecom operators based on service offerings.

recent publication by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) reveals that MTN saw a lot of outgoing customers porting to other telcos. The share of outgoing porting activity accounted for by each provider in Q1 2016 was more stable than the share of incoming porting activity. MTN, with 31,036 outgoing porters, accounted for the largest share at 58.59%. Although this is slightly lower than the 32,226 outgoing porters recorded in the previous quarter (Q4, 2015). Airtel with 9,985 outgoing porters accounted for the second largest number of outgoing porters.

Mobile Providers Porting Activities 1

Summary of Porting Activities, Q1 2016 (Source: NBS)

As of March 2016, the total number of GSM subscribers was 147,398,854, an increase of 5,756,018 relative to March 2015. Airtel and Globacom continued their uninterrupted upward trend in GSM subscriber numbers from January to March 2016 while Etisalat and MTN experienced a decline in the number of GSM subscribers leaving MTN with 39% of total GSM subscribers.

GSM-Subscribers-Providers

Share of total GSM subscribers by provider, March 2016 (Source: NBS)

In fairness to MTN, the primary reason for the massive decline in subscriber share is not far-fetched. You will recall that the telco’s perpetual tussle with the NCC caused it to lose 4.5 million subscribers in April.

Advertisement

Nevertheless, it is quite instructive that almost 60% of the outgoing ports in Q1 2016 were from MTN. All other providers increased in share. Airtel accounted for the second largest number of porters from MTN; their share increased from 18.70% to 18.85% between the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. Globacom’s share increased from 11.64% to 13.50% over the same period, and Etisalat’s increased from 8.39% to 9.06%. Etisalat remains the largest beneficiary of incoming porting activity, and accounted for 48.49% in the first quarter of 2016, just short of half of all incoming activity.

The MTN effect

But here’s where it gets more interesting. According to the report, a total of 92,285,052 Nigerians had an internet subscription with one of the four carriers of Airtel, Etisalat, Globacom and MTN in March 2016. This is down from almost 98 million in November, 2015. The fall in the proportion of GSM users with internet subscriptions was caused entirely by MTN, which had 6,568,142 fewer internet subscribers in March 2016 than in December 2015. As a result, MTN’s share of GSM internet subscriptions declined over this period from 39.90% to 33.36%, although this still makes it the largest provider. All other providers recorded increases, although these increases were not large enough to outweigh the reduction in MTN’s subscriptions.

Internet Subscribers GSM Technology 1

Internet subscribers with GSM technology, by company, Mar 2015 – Mar 2016 (Source: NBS)

Given that Visafone (now acquired by MTN) dominated the CDMA internet subscriptions to a greater extent than the mobile subscriptions (accounting for 99.89% in March 2016) it is the main driver of total CDMA internet subscriptions

Total Number of Subscribers 1

Total number of subscribers each month, Mar 2015 – Mar 2016 (Source: NBS)

Although the ratio of internet to mobile subscriptions amongst CDMA providers is low relative to GSM subscribers, internet subscriptions remained stable from July 2015 through to February 2016. However, there was a sharp decline in March 2016, which led to a decrease of 18.09% relative to the previous March and of 16.80% relative to December 2015.

Data subscription distribution

It is interesting to note that Lagos and Ogun States account for the largest number of telecoms internet subscribers.

Lagos State accounted for the largest share of active voice subscribers with 19.04 million, followed by Ogun State with 8.53 million subscribers, Kano State with 7.81 million, Oyo State with 7.53 million subscribers, then FCT and Rivers State with 6.03 million and 5.84 million respectively. While Bayelsa (1.11 million), Yobe (1.40 million), Ekiti (1.42 million) and Ebonyi (1.43 million) had the smallest number of active subscribers as of 1st quarter 2016.

Advertisement

It is obvious that the real titans in this war are MTN and Glo having the largest internet subscriptions. But will MTN’s secret weapon – Visafone – help in anyway? Going by the aggressive marketing strategies employed by Glo in making internet subscription cheap and relatively affordable I doubt MTN can hold their first place title for long.

The race of the telcos to be the number one supplier of internet service in Nigeria will avail techpreneurs the opportunity to reach the populace with their services. One thing I am hoping for is the establishment of more internet subscribers in the remaining 26 states of the federation ranking low with respect to the number of internet subscribers.

Emmanuel Ogunsola
Emmanuel Ogunsola

I love telling stories using text, pictures and videos. It’s all about the little details.

On January 22, 2022, be part of the largest gathering of innovators, startup founders, thinkers, programmers, policymakers, and investors in West Africa. Register free.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
paykobo
paykobo
5 years ago

That’s a new development in the Telcom industry, thanks to NCC on the regularization of charges from telcoms. There have to be competition to make the game of telcom interesting and not the issues of the winner takes all. Well as regards that, paykobo.com has interesting offers too, that will make you enjoy all your mobile devices at home and office. Thanks for choosing paykobo.com. from paykobo.com team.

Etim Ezekiel
Etim Ezekiel
5 years ago

Airtel remains the best ..u know y …? Cos they have the coverage … For example I subscribed 1gb 500# for 7 day but I was able to use only 100mb cos there’s no network on mtn…

Recent News

Subscribe to Techpoint Digest!

A daily 5-minute roundup of happenings in African and global tech, sent directly to your email inbox, between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m (WAT) every week day!

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to Crypto Explorer

A monthly series featuring in-depth analysis on the cryptocurrency sector in Africa

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to The Experts

A bi-weekly where tech career specialists take us on their journey from newbie to expert, and how they became successful in the industry.

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe to Founder's Table

A monthly series, where we catch up with founders in the startup ecosystem, learn about their failures, successes and a few tricks of the trade

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap