The number of Internet subscribers in Nigeria grew astronomically by 14.03 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 154.3 million compared to 140.28 million recorded in the previous quarter. This is contained in the recently published telecoms report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The internet subscriber base increased by 10% quarter-on-quarter, with MTN Nigeria boasting the highest customer base with 58.8 million subscribers, followed by Globacom with 39.53 million.
Also, Airtel recorded a total internet subscriber base of 37.53 million as of the end of 2021, 9mobile with 5.75 million, SMILE (314,674), and NTEL with 27,799.
Meanwhile, the two most populated states in the country, Lagos and Kano alongside Ogun State made up the top list of states with the highest internet subscribers in Nigeria, with 37.61 million subscriptions as of December 2021.
A further look at the data shows that all the 36 states of the federation including the federal capital territory, Abuja recorded growth in the number of internet subscribers in Q4 2021 compared to the previous quarter.
Top states by internet subscribers
Unsurprisingly, Lagos State maintained the top spot with 18.94 million internet subscribers as of the end of Q4 2021, gaining an additional 1.44 million subscribers compared to 17.71 million recorded in the preceding quarter. Lagos State accounted for 12.3% of the total internet customers in the country.
It is worth noting that most of the subscribers in Lagos State were serviced by MTN with 6.27 million users, followed by Airtel and Globacom with 4.98 million and 4.85 million subscribers respectively.
Similarly, Kano State followed with a total of 9.59 million internet subscribers, representing 6.2% of the internet customer base. Ogun State had 9.1 million subscribers as of the period under review. Also, Oyo State, which houses the largest city in west Africa boasts of 8.05 million internet subscribers.
What happened in 2020
Recall that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) suspended the registration of new sim card in December 2020, mandating all telcos to link National Identification Numbers (NIN) to their mobile subscriber.
The directive came with a threat to disconnect everyone who failed to connect their NIN to their SIM within 4 weeks. The deadline was later extended several times before being reversed in April of the same year.
However, the sudden policy reversed the record-making growth recorded in the sector in 2020, which had grown the internet subscriber base by 28.2 million to over 154 million subscribers by the end of the year.
With the recent increase, it has not rebounded to the level recorded during the covid-19 lockdown.
Lagos State recorded the highest number of new active internet subscribers in Q4 2021, with an additional 1.44 million subscribers, closely followed by Kano State with 1.43 million new subscribers.
Also, Katsina’s internet subscriber base increased by 728,131 in the review quarter while Zamfara State recorded an increase of 706,367 new subscribers to stand at 2.14 million at the end of 2021.
On the other hand, Bayelsa State recorded the lowest growth with 77,523 new internet subscribers, followed by Ebonyi State with 101,994 new subscribers.
What this means
The recent growth in the number of internet subscribers indicate that the telecommunication sector has recovered from the downturn recorded earlier in the year as a result of the NCC ban on new sim registration.
Also, a look at the financial statement of listed telco companies shows stellar growth in their data earnings in 2021. Notably, MTN NIgeria grew its data revenue by 55.3% year-on-year in 2021 to N516.2 billion, while Airtel Nigeria recorded a 41.2% boost in data revenue to N283.5 billion.