The Nigerian telecommunications sector has contributed 9.1% to the country’s GDP in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The report shows that the telecom sector contributed N1,663 billion to the country’s economy, which represents an increase of 1.1% points relative to the previous quarter.

While stating that the share of telecoms in total real GDP had declined throughout 2010 to 2014, the NBS report notes that in 2015 and 2016, the telecoms sector fared better than the overall economy of the country, thus having real GDP increase in both years.

“In contrast with the overall economy, real year on year growth in the telecommunications sector remained positive throughout 2016, and in the final quarter telecommunications growth increased slightly, from 0.95% to 1.03%,” the report says.

The report also shows a decline in the number of telecom subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2017 to 152,467,198 subscribers.

Over the past decade, total number of subscribers has increased rapidly. At the end of 2005 there were 19,519,154 subscribers, but by the end of 2016 there were 154,529,780, which is equivalent to an increase of 12,273,693 every year.

However, growth has declined at the end of the first quarter of 2017, with 152,467,198 subscribers, representing a quarterly decline of 1.33%. Along with declines in the first half of 2016, this indicates that growth has become less consistent, after years of nearly uninterrupted growth.

On a year on year perspective, there was still an increase of 2.5%; a larger increase than at the end of any quarter since March 2016, reflecting the increases seen throughout the second half of 2016. This increase can partly be attributed to the inclusion of new providers by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The record provided by NCC shows that the Commission has began recording data for a new technology type, “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol). Whereas in the last report data was only available for Smile, this quarter data for NTEL has also been included. As a result, there was a quarterly increase in VoIP subscriber numbers of 195.89%, nearly triple, from 33,099 subscribers in December 2016 to 97,935 in March 2017.

In March 2017, mobile subscribers using GSM accounted for 99.69% of the total number of mobile subscribers. GSM subscribers totaled 151,999,197, which was 2,125,405 less than in December 2016, equivalent to a decrease of 1.38%. When compared to the previous year (year on year) there were 4,600,343 more subscribers, an increase of 3.12%.

Particularly, Airtel again recorded the highest growth rate for the first quarter of 2017. Their number increased by 540,196 to reach 34,656,605 between December 2016 and March 2017, an increase of 1.5%.

Globacom saw a slight decrease based on the data. With 37,328,827 subscribers, Globacom had 29,016 fewer subscribers in March 2017 than in December 2016, a decrease of 0.08%. In percentage terms, Etisalat recorded the largest decline of 5.71%, compared to 2.34% for MTN. However, given that MTN has significantly more subscribers, with 60,391,959 in March 2017 compared to 19,621,806 for Etisalat, their monthly decrease was larger in absolute terms. MTN lost 1,448,502 subscribers relative to December 2016, compared to a loss of 1,188,083 for Etisalat.

In any case, these trends did not change the overall ranking of GSM providers in terms of numbers of subscribers. MTN remained the largest provider, and accounted for 39.73% in March 2017, which is a lower share than the share of 40.12% at the end of the previous quarter. Airtel and Globacom each increased their share over the same period, from 22.14% to 22.80%, and from 24.24% to 24.56% respectively.

On internet subscriptions, a total of 89,972,792 GSM users had an internet subscription with one of the four carriers of Airtel, Etisalat, Globacom and MTN in March 2017. This means that of all active GSM lines, 59.19% had an internet subscription.

In March 2017, MTN had 30,519,351 internet subscribers, a quarterly fall of 3.89%, or 1,234,018 internet subscriptions. Etisalat had 13,008,481, a decrease of 744,459 subscribers, which is 5.41%. While Airtel recorded an increase of 60,215, to reach 19,423,760, an increase of 0.31%, Globacom also recorded an increase of 11,022 to reach 27,021,200, an increase of only 0.04%.

The report also shows the record of porting activities (the transfer of subscribers to different network carriers), indicating a decrease in the amount of porting activity in the first quarter of 2017, both incoming and outgoing, relative to the final quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2016.

There was a total of 41,419 incoming porters in the first quarter of 2017 (across all three months). This compares with a total of 49,547 in the final quarter of 2016, and 51,301 in the first quarter of 2016, decreases of 16.40% and 19.26% respectively.

Quarter on quarter, Airtel recorded an increase in the number of porters switching to Airtel to nearly doubled, increasing by 99.07% in March 2017 with 6,856 porters. MTN saw an increase of 10.10% incoming porters numbering 4,817. Etisalat recorded the largest decline of 29.06%, which brought their number to 27,249, although this was still the largest number of incoming porters recorded by any provider. Globacom recorded a decline of 24.72% which brought their number to 4,817.

On the outgoing porting, there was a total of 41,943 outgoing porters in the first quarter of 2017, a decrease of 12.38% relative to the final quarter of 2016 and of 20.82% relative to the number of outgoing porters recorded in the first quarter of 2016.

MTN fell to 11,463 from 16,504 in the previous quarter, a fall of 30.54%. Airtel recorded a decline of 20.93% to 12,462 outgoing porters in the first quarter, Etisalat had 5,369 outgoing porters in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 20.08% and Globacom had 12,649, an increase of 13.59%.

The NBS plays an important role in the process of development by providing data to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussions within government and the community, by leading a high quality, objective and responsive National Statistical System.

Success Kafoi, is a Lagos-Nigerian based ICT Journalist and a Guest Blogger for Nexxy Tech. you can connect with him on twitter @Tach_Kafoi and Facebook

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