Nigeria’s Internet reach has grown as broadband penetration hit a new high of 46.24 per cent in November 2022.
The latest statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission indicated that while broadband penetration grew to 46.24 per cent, broadband subscriptions hit 88.27 million in 11 months of 2022.
According to the data, broadband subscriptions grew by 13.11 per cent from 78.04 million as of December 2021 to 88.27 million as of November 2022. Broadband penetration also grew by 5.36 percentage points to 46.24 per cent.
MTN Nigeria and Airtel recently revealed that they invested a combined N468.96bn in expanding broadband infrastructure in nine months last year.
They disclosed this in their respective financial reports for the third quarter of 2022. According to MTN, it deployed 8230 4G sites and 218 5G sites within the period under review.
It said, “Capital expenditure in the period was N379bn, up by 45.2 per cent, due to accelerated coverage expansion focusing on the 4G and 5G networks and our rural telephony programme.”
Airtel added, “The enhanced 4G network and ample data network capacity to provide high-speed data has helped us to grow our data customer base.
“As we continued our 4G network rollout, nearly all our sites in Nigeria (99 per cent) now deliver 4G.”
NCC has stated that financial inclusion is dependent on broadband availability. While this growth is a testament to the sustained network rollout in the country, it might not be enough to achieve the Federal Government’s plan to achieve 90 per cent broadband penetration by 2023.
In June 2021, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, disclosed that the Federal Government was hoping to achieve 90 per cent broadband penetration by 2023.
He said, “We developed the National Broadband Plan 2020-2030 which targets a 90 per cent penetration rate in terms of population and a 70 per cent rate in terms of our total land mass within the next two years. It also targets a speed of 25mbps for urban areas while a 10mbps speed is targeted for rural areas.
“So far, we have been able to achieve a 10 per cent increase just within a year, which brings the success rate to 45 per cent. This is unprecedented and it is because of the president’s commitment to a digital Nigeria and support in approving our policies.”
While the minister stated this target, the ‘Nigerian National Broadband Plan: 2020–2025,’ shows that Federal Government intends to increase coverage by 90 per cent by 2025.
A part of the document read, “The new Broadband Plan is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90 per cent of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (i.e. 2 per cent of median income or 1 per cent of minimum wage).”
The plan further projected that the country would have a broadband penetration of 50 per cent by 2023.
According to the Federal Government, access to broadband is vital for economic growth. It described broadband access as a globally recognised necessity.
Pantami stated this in an interaction with the state governors, their representatives and other industry stakeholders at the maiden edition of the Broadband Technical Awareness Forum for Governors.
He said, “This is because, more than ever before, our security, economic and educational development rely on having state-based broadband structure and framework that will articulate the key targets in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, and this is the essence of this forum today.”
According to him, countries with a high density of broadband networks have higher GDP per capita for their citizens. He added that steady growth in broadband penetration in the country is impacting its economic growth.
He further stated that the Federal Government was making plans to develop in-country connectivity to enhance socio-economic development.
A 10 per cent increase in mobile broadband penetration could lead to a minimum of 2.46 per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product in the country according to the World Bank.
Global System for Mobile Communications Association recently disclosed that about 200 million people in Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan countries reside in areas without mobile broadband coverage.
The global body representing telecommunication firms explained this was the largest broadband coverage and usage gap in its ‘The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2022’ report.
It said, “In Central Africa, 39 per cent of the population (60 million) remains outside the reach of a mobile broadband network, while this stands at 16 per cent in Western Africa (64 million), 13 per cent in Eastern Africa (45 million), and 12 per cent in Southern Africa (26 million).