Expert Say Low Broadband Penetration, Harsh Economy, Responsible for Decline in Mobile Internet Subscription

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By Emma Okonji

Nigerians have rued the recent drop in mobile internet subscription from 97.8 million in November 2015 to 93.6 million in February 2016.
According to experts’ opinions, the drop could be a combination of reasons, and paramount among them were low broadband penetration in the country which is currently put at 10 per cent, despite the federal government’s projection of 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018.
Nigerians are skeptical about the country achieving the 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018, going by the slow penetration rate currently being witnessed by Nigerians.
Apart from low broadband penetration, some experts are of the opinion that the harsh economic situation in the country, may have contributed immensely to the decline in mobile internet penetration in the country.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), had at the weekend, released the current statistics on mobile internet penetration, which showed a decline in the number of Nigerians that access the internet through their mobile devices like the mobile phones and tablets.
According to the release on NCC’s website, total mobile internet subscription rose to 97.8 million in November 2015, which was the highest ever since the inception of GSM operations in Nigeria in 2001, but the figure dropped to 93.6 million in February this year.
Industry experts are of the view that several factors may have been responsible for the decline.
President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Lanre Ajayi told THISDAY that the drop in mobile internet subscription could be as a result of the harsh economic situation in the country, where everyone is now cutting down on costs.
He said Nigerians have started prioritising their needs and cutting down on most of their expenditure as a result of the harsh economic situation in the country.
He however said it was also possible that the telecoms services, which include data services have improved in the country and that people have decided to reduce the number of internet subscriptions they initially had across all network operating companies.

According to him, “Nigerians are known for multiple internet subscriptions for fear of poor internet service delivery from various network operators. Today the situation has improved and people are beginning to stick to only one internet service provider, as against the multiple internet subscriptions they do in the past, just to sample the network that provides the best and cheapest internet service.”
Others who spoke in anonymity, blamed the decline in mobile internet subscription on poor implementation of broadband policy in the country. According to them, broadband availability drives internet accessibility and since the internet penetration rate is slow, which is currently put at 10 per cent penetration, there is every tendency that mobile internet penetration would be affected.
They warned that unless the NCC and the federal government come up with measures to boost internet penetration in the country, the mobile internet subscription would continue to nosedive.

Details of the NCC result on mobile internet penetration show that Airtel attained 17.8 million internet subscriptions in October 2015, which was the highest so far, but had a decline in January 2016, with 16.9 million mobile internet subscribers, while Etisalat had a rise of 15.6 million mobile internet subscriptions in September 2015, which declined to 15.23 million as at February 2016. MTN also had 41.84 million mobile internet subscriptions in September 2015, but the figure declined to 35.6 million in February 2016.
Globacom however, had a steady growth in its mobile internet subscriptions from 20.77 million in August 2015 to 21.9 million in September 2015, and it continued rising on a monthly basis until it hit the 25.69 million mobile internet subscription number in February 2016, which is its highest so far.