Telecommunication subscribers in Nigeria spent N731.94bn on calls and data services on MTN and Airtel’s network in the first three months of 2023.

This was a 15.42 per cent increase from the N634.17bn they spent in the corresponding period of 2022, according to the financial results of the telcos.

During the period under review, MTN made N505.45bn from calls and data while Airtel made N226.49bn.

The results of both telcos showed a growing uptake in data services with data revenues almost toppling voice revenues.

MTN made N277.61bn from voice and N227.84bn from data; Airtel made $262m (N120.61bn) from voice and $230m (N105.88bn) from data.

According to MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Karl Toriola, the firm was faced with headwinds in its operating environment.

He said, “We continued to experience headwinds in our operating environment in the first quarter of 2023. The impacts of the ongoing global macroeconomic and geopolitical developments on energy, food, and general inflation were exacerbated locally by petrol and cash shortages experienced during the period. This placed additional pressure on economic activity, consumers, and businesses.

“The private sector experienced the deepest contraction in March 2023 since the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, driving down the PMI index to 42.3 points from 44.7 points in February 2023.”

According to the firm, data revenue rose by 40.0 per cent on the sustained growth of its active data users and increased data usage.

“This was enabled by our sustained investment in our networks to drive 4G and 5G coverage and enhance the quality and capacity of the network to support the rising data traffic,” it noted.

The CEO of Airtel Africa, Olusegun Ogunsanya, also noted, “Over the last year, the operating environment has been challenging in many ways, yet our strategic focus on providing reliable, affordable and accessible services across our markets has enabled us to sustain our top-line growth momentum.”

According to the firm, it has lost $110m in revenue since it barred some of its customers from making calls due to a Federal Government directive that mandated telcos to bar subscribers that had not linked their SIMs to their NINs.

Commenting on data revenue, it stated, “Data revenue increased by 27.8 per cent in constant currency, driven by both data customer base growth of 17.3 per cent and data ARPU growth of 9.9 per cent. Over the last year, we have enhanced our 4G network with ample data network capacity to provide high-speed data to our customers with almost 100 per cent of our sites now on 4G and data capacity increase of 27.5 per cent.”

The World Bank claimed that the increased consumption of data services was one of the major contributors to Nigeria’s information and communications technology sector.

Data consumption is predicted to continue to rise in Nigeria due to a growth in smartphone traffic, which is expected to drive data usage to at least 19GB per month by 2028, according to Ericsson Mobility Report (June 2023).

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