Nigeria has Africa's largest mobile market, with about 149 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 107%. The initial rapid growth in the number of subscribers led to problems with network congestion and quality of service, prompting the telecom regulator to impose fines and sanctions on the network operators. These have responded by investing billions of dollars in base stations and fibre optic transmission infrastructure to support the ever increasing demand for bandwidth. Although GSM technology still dominates there is a growing shift to services based on LTE.
Efforts are also being made to encourage network sharing and to outsource the management of tower infrastructure to third parties. There remains considerable growth potential in rural areas where the provision of network infrastructure and operations is expensive, and consequently where mobile penetration is lower. Competition of voice pricing has encouraged operators to develop new revenue streams from mobile broadband and data services, including m-payments and m-banking.
Although the market is one of the most competitive in Africa, the industry regulator in 2013 applied a price floor on voice and data tariffs in a bid to prevent the dominant operators from squeezing competitors. This price floor was reduced in November 2016 but swiftly retracted.
Following years of delay, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was introduced in 2013, and this has stimulated market competitiveness.
Etisalat defaults on loan payments, ordered to transfer 45% holding in Etisalat Nigeria to loan trustees and is rebranded as 9Mobile; MTN Nigeria awarded spectrum in the 2.6GHz band for LTE use, extends licenses for spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands to August 2021; MTN Nigeria delays IPO to 2018; government prepares legislation to enforce 9% tax on electronic communications services; Visafone acquired by MTN Nigeria, trials LTE in the 800MHz band; NatCom Consortium launches LTE-A services; additional base stations installed under the USPF program; Airtel Nigeria and Etisalat sell tower infrastructure; Smile Communications extends LTE; government cracks down on substandard mobile devices; report update includes operator data to Q1 2017, regulator's market data updates to April 2017, recent market developments.