Nigeria is Africa’s largest mobile market with more than 125 million subscribers and a market penetration of around 75% in early 2014. The rapid growth has led to problems with network congestion and quality of service, prompting the regulatory authority NCC to impose fines and sanctions. Every year the network operators are investing billions of dollars in additional base stations and fibre optic transmission to support the ever increasing demand for bandwidth. According to some estimates, the number of cell sites in the country – currently around 20,000 – could more than triple in the coming years.
At the same time, efforts are being made to limit the environmental impact of further expansion and to encourage infrastructure sharing. Major tower outsourcing deals have been concluded. Much of the remaining addressable market is in the country’s rural areas where network rollouts and operations are expensive. This in combination with declining ARPU levels is forcing the networks to streamline their operations and to develop new revenue streams from services such as third and fourth generation (3G/4G) mobile broadband, mobile payments/banking, and others.
Not every operator makes it in this highly competitive market. M-Tel, the mobile arm of the national telco Nitel is in liquidation together with its parent company, following a decade of failed privatisation attempts. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are going on amongst the country’s other smaller operators, many originating from the fixed-wireless sector using CDMA-2000 technology. Some of them hold suitable frequency spectrum for a technology migration to Long Term Evolution (LTE). Several other LTE networks have already been launched.
Although the market is one of the most competitive in Africa, the industry regulator is tightening price caps and mandating further reductions of interconnect rates. Following years of delays, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was finally introduced in 2013, promising to make the market even more competitive. The terrorist group Boko Haram has created difficulties for network provision and maintenance in the northern states, a difficulty which neither the government nor operators are properly positioned to address.
Additional 79 BTS installed under the USPF program; Airtel Nigeria sells 4,800 towers to AMC; regulator delays auction of 2x70MHz block of spectrum for mobile broadband use; Smile Communications extends LTE each; government cracks down on substandard mobile devices; CDMA operators close shop following financial difficulties; Etisalat sells its 2,136 tower infrastructure; tens of thousands of new base stations to be built; major network management contracts; mergers and acquisitions among smaller operators; M-Tel/Nitel in liquidation; several LTE networks launched; regulator cracks down on poor quality of service; new price caps and lower interconnection rates; Mobile Number Portability introduced; report includes operator data to Q3 2014, regulator’s market data updates to September 2014, recent market developments.
Companies covered in this report:
MTN Nigeria; Glo Mobile (Globacom); Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain, Celtel); Etisalat Nigeria (EMTS, Mubadala); M-Tel (Nitel); Visafone; Starcomms (Capcom); Multi-Links; Reliance; Intercellular; Megatech Engineering (Zoda Fones); Telkom SA; Econet Wireless; Vodacom.