​​ANALYSIS: COVID-19 Induced Online Communication Pushes Nigeria’s Data Usage Up By 66.5%

​​ANALYSIS: COVID-19 Induced Online Communication Pushes Nigeria's Data Usage Up By 66.5%

As more people avoided physical contact and engaged in online communication due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the total volume of data consumed by Nigerian subscribers increased by 66.5 percent in 2020.

This was revealed in the 2020 Subscribers/ Network Data report published by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The report stated that telecoms subscribers consumed  205,880.4 terabytes of data as of December 2020 compared with  123,648TB  of data in December 2019.

The commission attributed the rise in data usage to the COVID-19 outbreak that has limited physical communication and encouraged virtual communication.

“The increase in data usage is directly linked to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted normal activities and most functions had to be held virtually including schools, Corporate Meetings,” NCC said.

Also, the regulatory body said the number of Mobile-Cellular machine-machine subscriptions was 1,217,584 last year.

It described M2M subscriptions as the number of Mobile-Cellular machine to machine subscriptions that are assigned for use in machines and devices for the exchange of data between networked devices, and are not part of a consumer subscription.

NCC said, “EMTS (9mobile) had the highest number of machine to machine subscriptions with 454,001, GLO had 414,081 while Airtel recorded 349,502 M2M subscriptions.”

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For mobile-only broadband as a standalone service such as mobile broadband subscriptions for data-cards, USB modem/dongle and tablets, it said, “MTN, GLO, AIRTEL and EMTS (9mobile) had a total number of 513,346 Data-Only Mobile-Broadband Subscriptions (Dongles) as of December, 2020. In summary, AIRTEL, GLO, MTN, and EMTS (9mobile) each recorded 322,273; 92,531; 79,718; and 18,824 Data-Only Mobile-Broadband Subscriptions (Dongles) respectively as at December, 2020.”

The report stated that 2020 Active Mobile Broadband Subscriptions to 3G and 4G networks were 85.94 million as against  72.15 million at the end of 2019.

Based on the total number of broadband subscriptions to MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, Smile and Ntel, broadband penetration stood at 45.02 percent as of December 2020 as against 37.8 percent in the same period in 2019.

“The subscriptions indicate that Broadband penetration stood at 45.02 percent as of December 2020. The Commission has long exceeded the target of 30 percent penetration as of December 2018 and has begun implementing all milestones to meet the new target of 70 percent Broadband penetration by the year 2025 as contained in the new Broadband Plan,” the report stated

The statistics showed that as of December 2019, telecoms operators reported total active Internet subscriptions for the mobile segment of 154.29 million reflecting a 22.5 percent increase from 126.08 million reported in December 2019. 

Four out of the six GSM operators reported growth in the number of subscriptions between December 2019 and December 2020.

Glo recorded the highest percentage increase of active Internet subscriptions of 38.6 percent, from 28.93 million subscriptions in 2019 to 40.11 million subscriptions in the same period in 2020.

Subscribers to MTN Internet services grew by 20.8 percent from 54.11 million subscriptions in 2019 to 65.36 million subscriptions in 2020.

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Airtel’s Internet users grew by 19.6 percent from 34. 52 million subscriptions in 2019 to 41.29 million subscriptions in 2020.

9mobile recorded a decline of 11.8 percent in active Internet subscriptions from 8.09 million subscriptions in 2019 to 7.12 subscriptions at the end of 2020.

Subscribers to Smile’s Internet services grew by 31.2 percent from  288,647  subscriptions in 2019 to  378,635  subscriptions in 2020.

On the contrary, Ntel’s Internet users reduced by 28.7 percent from  52,354 subscriptions in 2019 to 37,306 subscriptions in 2020.

Internet Traffic Surges At Peak Of Pandemic

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Internet traffic increased in Lagos and other states where the lockdown, which aims to reduce the spread of coronavirus, took effect in April last year.

With workers leveraging the Internet for online education, teleworking, gaming and entertainment, there was a rise in Internet traffic recorded by the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN).

The Chief Executive Officer, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Muhammed Rudman, had said a surge in Internet traffic was noticed when the lockdown took effect in selected states, especially in Lagos.

According to him, Internet traffic increased by 10 per cent a week before the lockdown as many companies had introduced a work-from-home policy a week before the government-imposed lockdown.

IXPN is a centre point for local traffic exchange between network operators and Internet Protocol providers.

“We noticed an increase in traffic and we are trying to encourage our members to upgrade their ports. For Lagos in particular, we have seen an increase today,” he had said.

With all the mobile network operators connected to the IXPN and also other IT driven companies, Rudman last month said impacted the IXPN traffic had increased to 220 Gbps from 125 Gbps in 2020.

Mobile Data Usage For WhatsApp, Facebook, Netflix Increased

An investigation carried out by Ericsson also showed that Nigeria experienced an increase in mobile data consumption for WhatsApp, Facebook, Netflix and TikTok, among others, during COVID-19 pandemic

Insights provided by Ericsson stated that other countries in the Middle East and Africa region also experienced a surge in mobile data consumption.

It said that lockdowns had made the popularity of online gaming to increase while developers are making games to minimise network traffic in order to improve speed.

Speaking at a media webinar on network capacity, performance and digitisation, the Head of Networks at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, Chafic Traboulsi, said fixed and mobile telecommunications networks had experienced major changes in traffic during the lockdowns.

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According to him, there has been a decrease in data traffic in urban areas and an increase in suburban and residential areas.

“Videoconferencing, gaming and streaming services are seeing major increases in use. A gaming/streaming boom triggers caps on video quality to keep bandwidth at bay,” he said.

About Author

Ife Ogunfuwa is an award-winning reporter who is versed in reporting business and economy, technology, gadgets reviews, telecoms, tax, and business policy review, among others. She loves telling stories behind the numbers. She has professional certifications in business and financial reporting. You can reach her via – [email protected]

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