Market Research Logo

Nigeria - Mobile Market - Overview, Statistics and Forecasts


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

Nigeria - Mobile Market - Overview, Statistics and Forecasts

Nigeria is Africa's largest mobile market with more than 110 million subscribers, and yet market penetration stands at only around 70% in early 2013. Subscriber growth accelerated again in 2012, driven by lower prices and a growing demand for mobile broadband services. The rapid growth has led to problems with network congestion and quality of service, prompting the regulatory authority NCC to impose fines and sanctions. Every year the network operators are investing billions of US$ into additional base stations and fibre optic transmission to support the ever increasing demand for bandwidth. According to some estimates, the number of cell sites in the country currently around 20,000 could more than triple in the coming years.

At the same time, efforts are being made to limit the environmental impact of further expansion and to encourage infrastructure sharing. Major tower outsourcing deals have been concluded. 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.

Not every operator makes it in this highly competitive market. M-Tel, the mobile arm of the national telco Nitel is in liquidation together with its parent company, following a decade of failed privatisation attempts. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are going on amongst the country's other smaller operators, many originating from the fixed-wireless sector using CDMA-2000 technology. Some of them hold suitable frequency spectrum for a technology migration to Long Term Evolution (LTE). Several other LTE networks are being rolled out, but commercial launches have been hindered by delays with frequency spectrum allocations.

Although the market is one of the most competitive in Africa, the industry regulator is tightening price caps and mandating further reductions of interconnect rates. Following years of delays, mobile number portability (MNP) was finally introduced in 2013, promising to make the market even more competitive.

Key developments:

Billions of US$ in investments per year, tens of thousands of new base stations to be built;
Major network infrastructure outsourcing deals;
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) among smaller operators;
M-Tel/Nitel in liquidation;
Several LTE networks preparing to launch;
Regulator cracks down on poor quality of service;
New price caps and lower interconnection rates;
Number portability finally introduced.

Companies covered in this report:

MTN Nigeria; Glo Mobile (Globacom); Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain, Celtel); Etisalat Nigeria (EMTS, Mubadala); M-Tel (Nitel); Visafone; Starcomms (Capcom); Multi-Links; Reliance; Intercellular; Megatech Engineering (Zoda Fones); Telkom SA; Econet Wireless; Vodacom.


1. Synopsis
2. Overview of Nigeria's mobile market
2.1 Mobile statistics
3. Regulatory issues
3.1 GSM licence terms
3.2 Interconnection
3.3 Mobile tariffs
3.3.1 Per-second billing (PSB)
3.3.2 SMS price caps
3.4 International gateways
3.5 Unified licensing regime
3.6 Universal service
3.7 Mobile number portability
3.8 Central equipment identity register
3.9 Poor quality of service
3.10 SIM card registration
3.11 Foreign ownership
3.12 Equal access for mobile content providers
3.13 Consumer protection against billing irregularities
4. Major GSM mobile operators
4.1 MTN Nigeria
4.1.1 Financial results 2009-2012
4.1.2 Network infrastructure and coverage, capital expenditure (capex)
4.1.3 National backbone network
4.1.4 Services
4.1.5 Average revenue per user (ARPU)
4.1.6 Major acquisitions
4.2 Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain/Celtel Nigeria)
4.2.1 Financial results before Bharti takeover
4.2.2 Network infrastructure and coverage
4.2.3 National backbone network
4.2.4 Services
4.2.5 ARPU
4.3 Globacom
4.3.1 Network infrastructure and coverage
4.3.2 Fibre optic backbone network
4.3.3 Services
4.4 Etisalat Nigeria (EMTS, Mubadala)
4.5 M-Tel (defunct)
5. CDMA operators
5.1 Multi-Links Telkom
5.2 Reliance Telecommunications Ltd (Reltel, Zoom)
5.3 Starcomms Ltd (Capcom)
5.3.1 Subscriber statistics
5.3.2 Financial results 2007-2011
5.3.3 Merger with Multi-Links and MTS First Wireless
5.4 Intercellular Nigeria Ltd
5.5 Visafone
5.5.1 Cell Communications Ltd (Cellcom)
5.5.2 Bourdex Telecommunications
6. Mobile data services
6.1 SMS
6.1.1 Premium-rate SMS, interactive TV (iTV)
6.2 MMS
6.3 GPRS, EDGE
6.4 WAP
6.5 CDMA2000 1x
6.6 BlackBerry
6.7 Mobile money transfer, m-banking
7. Mobile TV
8. 3G
8.1 Licensing
8.2 Globacom
8.3 Airtel
8.4 MTN
8.5 Etisalat Nigeria
8.6 CDMA-2000 1x EV-DO
9. LTE
10. Smartphones
11. Satellite mobile
12. Forecasts mobile subscribers 2015; 2018
12.1 Notes on scenario forecasts
13. Related reports
Table 1 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Nigeria 1998 - 2014
Table 2 Mobile subscribers in Nigeria by operator, technology December 2013
Table 3 MTN Nigeria ARPU 2002 - 2013
Table 4 Zain Nigeria ARPU 2006 - 2009
Table 5 Starcomms Nigeria total and mobility/mobile subscribers 2005 - 2013
Table 6 Glo Mobile Nigeria 3G HSDPA pricing 2013
Table 7 Airtel Nigeria 3G HSPA+ pricing 2013
Table 8 MTN Nigeria 3G HSDPA pricing 2013
Table 9 Visafone Nigeria CDMA-2000 1x and EV-DO pricing 2013
Table 10 Forecast mobile subscribers in Nigeria 2015; 2018
Chart 1 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Nigeria 2002 - 2014
Exhibit 1 Ownership battle from EWN to Vee Networks to V-Mobile to Zain to Bharti Airtel

Download our eBook: How to Succeed Using Market Research

Learn how to effectively navigate the market research process to help guide your organization on the journey to success.

Download eBook

Share this report