Graphics: Battle of the telcos

May 28, 2020|Aniekan Inyang

The telecommunications industry has consistently been Nigeria's fastest-growing sector in recent times. Last year, the sector grew by over 11% and contributed more than 8% of GDP. It is the only sector the National Bureau Statistics labelled as "one of the main drivers of non-oil growth," in its 2019 GDP report. 

Between 2018 and 2019, only agriculture, manufacturing and construction added more value to our economy than the telecoms industry - ₦3 trillion in total. 

Interestingly, this growth is coming from a few companies. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the entire GSM market is dominated by four players - Airtel, Glo, MTN and 9mobile. These companies are doing more for the economy that many sectors we often see on the news. 

Despite this dominance, the four companies are constantly competing for market share. 

So who's winning the battle for the valuable telecoms pie? MTN. 




In 2019, MTN had the highest number for both voice subscribers and internet subscribers. Airtel is second for internet users, while Glo takes the second spot for voice. 

The current pandemic is expected to boost data subscriptions for these companies. MTN and Airtel have already released strong Q1 results, which showed higher revenues from data subscriptions. 





For market share, one common measure of performance is porting. This is when a customer switches their sim from one network provider to another. 

Over the last three years, MTN has seen the least number of customers porting to its rivals. It has managed to keep its customers satisfied, which can be explained by its overall strength on network coverage around Nigeria. 

Airtel, on the other hand, has lost the most customers to its rivals, especially in the last quarter of 2019. 



In terms of gaining new clients, 9mobile was the noticeable winner last year. The sector is known for having constant deals to attract customers, and 9mobile may have played its cards right. 

Looking at the net impact of porting in and out, 9mobile had the highest customer retention rate (75%) while Glo had the lowest (-300%), i.e. they lost 300% more customers than they gained in 2019 through porting. 


Disclaimer: Porting is not the only means of gaining and losing customers. Telcos can acquire or lose customers directly without them porting to a rival firm. 


Follow our data journalist on Twitter @_aniekan_

Subscribe to read more articles in our newsletters here, and check out our COVID-19 live monitoring page.

To get our Daily Briefing on the go, subscribe to our WhatsApp channel.