Nigeria: Broadband Coverage in Nigeria Dips, Highlighting a $461 Million Investment Shortfall

Broadband Coverage in Nigeria Dips, Highlighting a $461 Million Investment Shortfall
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As of January, Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate has decreased to 42.53%, with active subscriptions reaching 92.19 million, which highlights a significant shortfall given the nation’s population of over 200 million.

The Nigerian National Broadband Plan for 2020-2025 aims to boost broadband penetration to 70% by 2025 and achieve 96% mobile broadband coverage by 2030, which would provide internet access to nearly the entire population. To reach these targets, an investment of approximately $461 million is required, according to a report by GSMA, which emphasizes the need for policy reforms to bridge the investment gap.

Significant progress has been made in reducing the coverage gap across Africa, with mobile broadband availability increasing from 44% in 2012 to 87% in 2022. In Nigeria, telecommunications companies have been pivotal in expanding network infrastructure since the telecom boom began in 2001, consistently investing in enhancing network capabilities and introducing advanced technologies.

GSMA notes that from 2018 to 2022, the coverage of 4G/5G networks across Africa more than doubled, reaching 68% of the population. Major Nigerian telecom operators like MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa have significantly increased their capital expenditures over the years, investing billions in network expansion, with amounts growing annually from N536.91 billion in 2021 to N732.42 billion in 2023.

Despite these investments, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reports that about 27 million Nigerians, primarily in rural areas, remain without access to telecom services, spanning 97 identified clusters. Additionally, in 2021, the government identified 301 local government areas with no internet connectivity.

Investments by telecom companies tend to focus on urban centers, leaving rural areas largely underserved. A recent white paper from the Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy highlighted that about 25% of the country’s metro fibre network is concentrated in major cities like Lagos, Edo, Abuja, Oyo, and Ogun, with other regions lagging behind.

As of 2023, Nigeria had deployed 78,676 kilometers of fibre optic cables, with the largest amounts in Lagos, Edo, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In contrast, states like Yobe, Borno, and Gombe have seen the least fibre deployment.

Telecommunications infrastructure, including towers and base stations, is also unevenly distributed. Major states like Lagos and Ogun boast thousands of towers, whereas states like Kebbi, Bayelsa, and Ebonyi have the fewest.

The challenge of closing the coverage gap is primarily economic, as highlighted by GSMA. Expanding mobile broadband networks in less populated areas becomes increasingly costly, with diminishing returns as each new mobile site covers fewer people.

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