Airtel grows subscriber base by 8.62% in 9 months, edges Glo to second spot

by Johnson Daniel

Airtel is Nigeria’s second-biggest Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operator after overtaking rival, Globalcom (GLO), in July but the gap between the two Telcos has never been narrower since Airtel edged Glo to the coveted spot in August 2018.

According to industry statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Airtel snapped Glo’s eight straight month reign as number two by increasing its share of the GSM market to 26.81 percent market share while Glo narrowly slipped to 26.70 percent. Just 123,327 subscribers stand between the duo.

The Bharti-owned telecommunications company has grown its subscriber base by 8.62 percent to 46,836,395 in the last nine months after it has conceded grounds to Conpetro Nigeria’s Glo while latter has expanded its base by 7.95 percent to 46,713,068 in the same period.

With 65,260,754 subscribers or 38 per cent market share, MTN Nigeria remains the country’s biggest GSM service provider. In July MTN gained 1,379 new subscribers with another 118,442 subscribers from Visafone, a Code-Division Multiple Access(CDMA)network it acquired.

Meanwhile, 9mobile was the only operator that lost subscribers dropping to 15,739,967, 9 percent of the GSM market.

NCC notes that Visafone has transferred its 118,442 subscribers to the GSM band.

Since GSM was introduced in Nigeria 18 years ago, the technology has been increasingly adopted by the country’s population. As of July the total subscribers in the GSM market are 174.67 million.

In addition to rolling out attractive voice plans, Nigeria’s increasing urbanisation, young population with a median age of about 18 years, increasing adoption of smartphone and internet penetration has made the data segment the frontline of the “war” for subscribers as operators try to under-price each other.

While Glo has the cheapest data plans and Airtel offers the second cheapest, but some industry watchers say Airtel’s growth can be attributed to the numerous innovations; one of such is the latest launch of its 4G network.

“One difference for me is the speed of the internet. Where I stay Airtel is faster,” Vivian, 25, a university student in Lagos said. “I spend hours on the internet working and keeping up with friends. This makes data a priority.”

SBM Intel, a leading geopolitical intelligence platform, estimates that after food, data and clothing top the list on the budget of Nigerians.

The research by SBM intel is in line with expectations given that Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, among others, has become more popular means of communication and offer an alternative to voice and SMS.

Underscoring the importance of faster data connectivity, according to a recent survey by Jumia, Nigeria’s mobile broadband penetration is forecast to rise to 55 percent of the population by 2025, with 70 percent having 3G connectivity and 17percent having access to 4G networks.

In addition, the report states that 5G network with the 26 GHz, 38 GHz and 42 GHz spectrum bands will be rolled out by 2020, it noted.

In 2018, the telecommunications industry grew 5.87 times faster than the rest of the economy as telecom output grew 11.33 percent to N6.6 trillion.

The performance in 2018, the best for the telecommunications industry in the six-year period, was followed by a 12.18 percent in the first quarter of 2019 while the economy expanded by 2.01 percent.

Airtel Africa listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in July as the country’s only Telco on the bourse after MTN which had earlier on listed by introduction.

In the first quarter to 30 June 2019 Airtel Africa, the African subsidiary of Indian based Airtel, saw revenue jumped 10.2 percent by double-digit growth in Nigeria and East Africa, partially offset by a decline in revenue in rest of Africa. The operator’s profit pared in the period.

Reported revenue in Nigeria increased by 22.2 percent, broadly in line with constant currency growth as a result of a stable foreign exchange environment, the Telco said.

Meanwhile, it noted that in Nigeria, voice revenue increased 12.7 percent on the back of its efficient distribution system and leading 4G network to acquire new customers.

Data revenue was also up 73.1 percent and it was the largest contributor to revenue growth in the Nigerian business.

Airtel said it benefited from the increased penetration of 4G data customers following the rollout of its 4G network. The result was a 21 percent increase in the customer base and growth in Average Revenue Per User.

Data revenue in the quarter ended 30 June 2019 accounts for 30 percent of the Nigeria revenue, compared to 21 percent in the prior year.

During the quarter, Airtel’s capital expenditure more than doubled, to $ 53.2 million, as the business continued to expand and investing the 4G network with the number of 4G sites increased fivefold, representing 60 percent of total sites.

Source: Businessday NG

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