With a recent increase by about 10 percent of the cost of data on their networks, MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa, both big players in Nigeria have served notice that subscribers should brace up to pay more to access the Internet on these networks.
Both companies stated these increases on their separate verified Twitter pages @AirtelNigeria and @MTN180 in response to inquiries by their customers.
This increase is a contradiction to the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025, where the Federal Government seeks to ensure cheaper data services in the country as a rule.
Early in the year telecom operators under the aegis of Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) wrote to the government via the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) proposing 40% rise in tariffs as a result of the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, but sensing no response, they may have technically begun a staggered increase of tariffs in this regard.
Specifically, ALTON’s letter read, “Given the state of the economy and the circa 40 per cent increase in the cost of doing business, we wish to request for an interim administrative review of the mobile (voice) termination rate for voice; administrative data floor price, and cost of SMS as reflected in extant instruments.”
But the recent 10 per cent hike is believed to be less than the 40 per cent in the cost of calls, SMS, and data initially proposed by ALTON.
The broadband plan hopes to achieve N1000 for 1Gb data by 2023 and N390 for 1Gb by the turn of 2025.
Although,only MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa have adjusted their data prices for now,the other operators may be warming up for this increase too. But it is not clear whether the NCC has endorsed the new adjustments but the regulator’s silence since the operators announcement on this may be a tacit or controlled approval even though there are also no confirmations whether the operators communicated their intentions formally to the regulator.
One thing is sure, the adjustment has come to stay, some industry players insisted. There are no fewer than 152million people connected to the Internet as at August 2022 according to figures released by the NCC.
Broadband connectivity stood at 44.7% and by the National Broadband Plan, Nigeria hopes to achieve 70% by 2025. And with these raise in cost of data,many more people may find it herculian a task to connect and sustain connectivity as they may be torn between costs of other commodities and that for data to enable them connect to the internet. This scenario will further create a divide between those who can afford it and those that cannot.
New studies on Internet Divide by SurfShark says that people in Least Developed Countries work three times harder to have access to three times lower internet connection.
The study says that 5.11 billion people (or 65.6% of the global population) use the internet. But strangely lower-income countries still work the most for bad-quality internet.
“There is an ever-growing disproportion in internet accessibility. This imbalance goes beyond just the internet to include digital exports, computing power, cybersecurity, and similar. But how big is the divide, and how will it expand in time?”
The study says people from lower-income countries are at an instant disadvantage when it comes to internet accessibility. Both mobile and broadband internet are three times slower than in higher-income countries but are three times less affordable:
According to the study,”people from lower-income countries work approximately 11 minutes more than higher-income countries to afford a single 1GB mobile internet plan that is also 49 Mbps slower. The average mobile internet speed in lower-income countries is 26 Mbps. You likely wouldn’t have any trouble streaming a movie, but you would struggle to have a video conferencing call (which requires at least 50 Mbps speed).”
The story is not too far for Broadband internet where lower-income countries work eight hours more than higher-income countries to afford a fixed broadband plan that is 83 Mbps slower on average. Unfortunately, fixed broadband internet in lower-income countries is just slightly faster than mobile (34 Mbps), which is still not enough for a smooth video call.
The lowest-income countries experience the sharpest internet divide.
In Mali and Ethiopia, for instance,people work 14 times more than the highest-income countries for mobile internet that is 68 mbps slower. Broadband internet in these lowest-income countries is just 19mbps on average (129 mbps slower than the highest-income countries), but it’s 8 times less affordable.
The SurfShark study equally says it’s Digital Quality of Life Index reveals key insights into digital wellbeing across 117 countries (or 92% of the global population). Each country ranks according to five pillars viz internet quality, internet affordability, e-infrastructure, e-government, and e-security.
“Having analyzed the Digital Quality of Life index over the last four years, Surfshark found that digital opportunities have proven to be more critical than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic stresses how important it is for countries to ensure remote operational capacity to drive their economies forward.”
These studies play out in the Nigerian situation as the average speed stands at 26 mbps except for those who have for broadband at higher costs.
By the upward reviews of data costs in Nigeria,the operators added between N10 and N50 to different data bundles across board where daily data bundle has increased to N550 from N500 and monthly bundle of 20GB now selling for N5,500, instead of N5,000.
NCC records show that MTN Nigeria had 42 percent of internet subscribers as at August 2022 accounting for the largest share,while Globacom, Airtel, and 9Mobile had 28 percent, 27 percent, and 3 percent of internet subscribers in that order.
While Nigeria,s broadband connectivity stands at 44.7%,the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), records show that mobile broadband penetration rates for South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya are roughly 116 percent, 77 percent, and 54 percent respectively.
Cost of living in Nigeria is not getting lower as income or take home hardly takes anyone home now and so several things are competing for the very poor income and spiraling cost of living.
Paucity of foreign exchange has also compounded industrial productivity fueled by low Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs).
So to grow the broadband sector of the telecommunications industry is a nightmare for operators.This affects spread and ultimately access and high cost.
And as SurfShark study says,when it comes to internet freedom, “some regions develop quicker than others. Africa still faces the most significant internet divide of all the continents in this study, as it was the only continent where the internet has failed to become more affordable since last 2021” adding that of all the pillars, internet affordability shows the highest inequality.
“As of 2022, the internet in Africa is 83% less affordable than in Oceania, the region with the most affordable internet. In fact, the study’s data shows that the gap between these regions has widened by more than 20 percentage points.”