Nitel in liquidation after a decade of failed privatisation attempts
Nigeria is one of the biggest and fastest growing telecom markets in Africa, attracting huge amounts of foreign investment, and is yet standing at relatively low levels of market penetration. Far reaching liberalisation has led to hundreds of companies providing virtually all kinds of telecom and value-added services in an independently regulated market. Following a fifth unsuccessful attempt to privatise Nitel, the incumbent national telco, the company is currently in liquidation.
The West African country has overtaken South Africa to become the continent’s largest mobile market with now close to 100 million subscribers, and yet market penetration stands at only around 60% in early 2012. However, subscriber growth slowed significantly during the global economic crisis, re-accelerated in 2010 but then slowed again in 2011. Much of the remaining addressable market is in the country’s rural areas where network rollouts and operations are expensive. This in combination with declining ARPU levels is forcing the networks to streamline their operations and to develop new revenue streams from services such as third generation (3G) mobile broadband, mobile payments/banking, and others. At the same time the operators are rolling out national fibre backbone networks to support the ever increasing demand for bandwidth. At least two operators are rolling out fourth generation (4G) LTE networks.
Nigeria is also the most competitive fixed-line market in Africa, featuring a second national operator (SNO, Globacom) and over 80 other companies licensed to provide fixed telephony services. The alternative carriers combined now provide over 90% of all fixed connections, the majority of which has been implemented using wireless technologies. This gives the network operators the opportunity to also enter the lucrative mobile market under a new unified licensing regime and has helped them to secure hundreds of millions of US$ in investments from local and foreign investors.
Nitel’s monopoly on international fibre bandwidth via the SAT-3/WASC submarine cable system ended in 2009 when Globacom’s Glo-1 cable landed in the country, followed by the Main-One cable in 2010. Additional submarine cables are scheduled to go online in 2012, which will deliver a further boost to the country’s underdeveloped Internet and broadband sector. New powerful players from the fixed-wireless and mobile network operator camps have entered this market with 3G mobile and advanced wireless broadband services such as WiMAX. The Internet Protocol (IP)-based next generation networks currently being rolled out are enabling converged voice, data/Internet and video services. VoIP is already carrying the bulk of Nigeria’s international voice traffic. Applications such as e-commerce, online banking and e-payments, e-health, e-learning and e-government are rapidly evolving.
This annual report contains a market overview and analysis, key statistics, regulatory issues, profiles of major players, including financial results where available, and two scenario forecasts for the mobile market in 2013 and 2016.
The largest mobile market and the most competitive fixed-line market in the region; New competition in international fibre bandwidth is set to revolutionise the market; Nitel/M-Tel in liquidation; Profiles of major players, including financial results; Estimates for end-2012 for fixed-line and Internet market; Forecasts for mobile market to 2013 and 2016. Estimated market penetration rates in Nigeria’s telecoms sector – end 2012 Market Penetration rate Mobile 63% Internet 49% Fixed 0.2% (Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)