(Ecofin Agency) - One of Nigeria’s digital ambitions is to connect 70% of its population to the Internet by 2025. In February 2023, its telecom regulator indicated that the country had 156.9 million internet subscribers while broadband penetration was 48.49%.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has granted 19 new Internet Service Provider (ISP) licenses this year. This brings the internet service providers - mobile network operators excluded- to 258 in Nigeria.
The initiative to license more ISPs is part of the Nigerian government's efforts to accelerate Internet penetration in the country and reach a broadband penetration rate of 70% by 2025.
Despite authorities’ efforts, the internet penetration rate could be slowed by many challenges facing internet service providers in the country. They notably complain about how hard it is to compete with mobile network operators (MTN, Airtel, Globacom, 9mobile) in the retail data market. According to NCC statistics, as of December 2022, mobile operators had 154.2 million active Internet subscribers against 204,810 for ISPs.
Nigerian ISPs also fear market domination by Starlink, the satellite-based ISP from billionaire Elon Musk's U.S. company SpaceX. In addition, it is difficult for ISPs to provide their services in rural or remote areas, which require substantial investments in telecom infrastructure.
To address these challenges, the regulator is working to ensure healthy competitive practices among competing licensees. "We are actively engaging in strategic collaborations with stakeholders who have crucial roles to play in the growth and development of the Nigerian economy with an emphasis on the telecommunications sector," said Umar Danbatta, executive vice president of the NCC.
Isaac K. Kassouwi