The latest figures from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and from the country’s network operators suggest Nigeria’s mobile customer base grew by 19.4% in 2010 to surpass 87mn at the end of December. This resulted in a mobile penetration rate of 55.2%, up from more than 47% at the start of 2010. Despite having a mobile penetration rate in excess
of 55%, we believe the sector has a high incidence of multiple SIM ownership and a large number of inactive prepaid users. This phenomenon increases the scope for robust rates of growth over the long term. One of the most important sources of growth over the next few years will be the expansion of mobile network infrastructures into rural areas. In March 2011 Nigeria’s newest mobile network operator Etisalat Nigeria, secured a seven-year US$650mn syndicated loan to drive its network expansion and modernisation over the next three years. The funds will be used to roll out Etisalat’s 3G and 2G networks on a national basis. Meanwhile, mobile market leader MTN Nigeria plans to spend US$1bn in 2011 expanding its network.
A newly revised forecast for Nigeria’s mobile market predicts a market with more than 99mn subscribers at the end of 2011, reflecting full-year growth of about 14%. By the end of 2015 we expect more than 141mn mobile customers; equivalent to a penetration rate of 79%.
Noteworthy developments in Nigeria’s telecoms market include the news in March 2011 that Omen International Consortium, the reserve bidder for state-run incumbent telco Nitel, had been invited to reregister interest in buying the operator. The move followed repeated failures by the preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications, to meet the payment deadlines. The British Virgin Islandsregistered Omen consortium, which includes China Unicom and Fiber Home Technologies Limited, submitted a bid of US$956.9mn for a 75% stake in Nitel and its mobile arm M-Tel during the latest attempt to privatise the company in February 2010.
Meanwhile, it was announced in February that Nigeria’s second-largest mobile network operator Globacom launched fourth-generation (4G) mobile services based on long-term evolution (LTE) technology. According to reports, services will initially be available to corporate users in Lagos and other large cities for wireless backhaul. Globacom said it will launch last-mile connectivity for the LTE network as soon as 4G-enabled phones and modems are made available in Nigeria. The operator argued that the launch of LTE will enhance the provision of more demanding applications such as interactive TV, mobile video blogging, advanced games or professional services.
Nigeria continues to sit in first position in BMI’s Business Environment Ratings for Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria scores well above the regional average in the Industry Rewards category. In the Country Rewards and Country Risk categories, Nigeria scores slightly higher than the regional average.