August 23, 2017

Nigeria pushes global mobile broadband growth to 4.3bn

…As youths dominate internet

By Emmanuel Elebeke

WITH 91 million broadband base, Nigeria leads Africa as the highest mobile broadband growing country. This also gives the global record a handsome push to the 4.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions window it attained recently.

The country which added a whopping  three million subscriptions, in the first quarter of the year, sits comfortably as fifth highest growing country, globally, since then. However, there are a few factors that fuelled this surge:

Smartphones: The well over 152 million telecom subscribers in the country are mainly on smartphones. This does not only drive Mobile internet usage but also gives significant boost to the growth of  e-commerce in  Nigeria.

According to a recent study by Jumia on African mobile trends, about 71 per cent of its users in Nigeria access the website through their mobile phones, compared to 53 per cent of customers in the rest of Africa. Jumia said that Mobile customers, both those who use its app and those from mobile browsers, account for 63 per cent of all  orders it receives in Nigeria.

Low cost handsets: The greater penetration of low-cost smartphones is a major reason for the rise in mobile internet use. Mobile phone manufacturers in the last two to three years have engaged in consistent competition, trying to topedo one another in low entry smartphones that have all the features of high end phones. This has given the low income earners access to affordable smartphones which do not only serve their voice communication needs but also launch them into the internet world..

Data-efficient mobile browsers:  In Nigeria, the Opera Mini browser is made lighter in terms of data usage than conventional browsers and has become very popular among new mobile internet users who have lower incomes and can’t afford costly internet data packages. The constant data bonuses given by several Nigerian telecom operators are also seeing people spend more time online.

Contrary to the old custom of using mobile phones to only look up products and then purchase them on the desktops, Nigerian e-commerce customers are increasingly checking out and paying for orders directly from their mobile phones. No wonder, it is estimated that Nigeria would have up to 75.9 million people online by 2020, which will also see to more growth of global mobile broadband subscriptions.

The 2017 report released by the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, revealed that 830 million young people are online, representing 80 percent of the youth population in 104 countries. ITU’s study also showed a significant increase in broadband access and subscriptions with China leading the way.

Internet adoption: The annual release which technology global players have long waited for, to be able to chart their future broadband businesses, reveals that youths, particularly those between the ages of15-24 year  are at the forefront of internet adoption. In the least developed countries, up to 35 percent of individuals using the internet are aged 15-24, compared with 13 percent in developed countries and 23 per cent globally. In China and India alone, up to 320 million young people use the internet.

Commenting on the report, ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao said; “Great strides are being made to expand internet access through the increased availability of broadband networks. Digital connectivity plays a critical role in bettering lives, as it opens the door to unprecedented knowledge, employment and financial opportunities for billions of people worldwide.”

Broadband is increasingly mobile: Similarly, the study further revealed that mobile broadband subscription has been growing at more than 20 percent annually in the last five years and is expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by the end of 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, least developed countries saw the highest growth of mobile broadband subscriptions.

Despite this, the number of mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in those countries is the lowest globally at 23 per cent. The number of fixed broadband subscription has increased by nine per cent annually in the last five years with up to 330 million subscriptions added.

The report  also indicated that there has been an increase in high speed fixed broadband subscriptions parallel to the growth in the number of fibre connections. “Most of the increase in high speed fixed broadband subscriptions in developing countries can be attributed to China, which accounts for 80 percent of all fixed broadband subscriptions at 10 Mbit/s or above in the developing world.”

Affordability of mobile broadband: The ITU study also shows that mobile broadband prices, as a percentage of gross national income per capita, dropped by half between 2013 and 2016. Hence, mobile broadband is more affordable than fixed broadband in most developing countries.

Digital gender divide: While the internet user gender gap has narrowed in most regions since 2013, study revealed that the proportion of men using the internet remains slightly higher than the proportion of women using the internet in two-thirds of countries worldwide. In 2017, the global internet penetration rate for men stands at 50.9 percent compared to 44.9 percent for women. Meanwhile, in the Americas, the number of women using the internet is higher than that of men.

International bandwidth growth: The report equally showed that international internet bandwidth grew by 32 percent between 2015 and 2016, with Africa registering an increase of 72 percent during this period, the highest of all regions. However, global telecommunication revenues declined  by 4 percent from USD 2.0 trillion in 2014 to USD 1.9 trillion in 2015.   Developing countries, which are home to 83 percent of the global population,  generate 39 percent of the world’s telecommunication revenues.