Year 2020 started on a very positive note, but the global outbreak of Coronavirus Pandemic changed a lot of things.
In fact, many industries suffered deficit. However, the biggest impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had so far on the telecom industry has been that the industry has become ever more central to how modern society operates.
Think about how many people had the need to work from home and to log into the system—videoconferencing has been booming; file sharing has been booming.
The story is not different in Nigeria as the year 2020 has been an eventful year with a lot of landmark regulatory initiatives by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The policies, programmes and activities of the Commission have further positively impacted the upward trajectory of the digital ecosystem in the year under review.
Also, the year 2020 came with a lot of challenges but the Nigerian telecommunications sector continued to record significant growth.
Prof. Umar Danbatta’s reappointment
The impressive performance and growth, made possible through effective regulatory initiatives emplaced by the telecoms regulator, under the leadership the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, was despite the apparent economic recession and headwinds occasioned by the global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns, especially in Nigeria.
The effective and future-proof regulatory regime by the NCC, coincidentally prepared the telecoms sector to be able to provide the needed digital valves that helped to keep the Nigerian economy afloat through seamless communication by individuals, businesses and government institutions in terms of voice and data services provided by telecoms operators, at a time when all other sectors of the economy were comatose.
A major development in the industry in 2020 was the reappointment of Prof. Danbatta for another five years term as the EVC of NCC, a presidential action that was resoundingly lauded by industry stakeholders, who described Danbatta “as a round peg in a round hole.”
His reappointment and subsequent confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the third quarter of 2020 also helped to ensure industry sustainability and policy consistency, preparing the industry for increased growth.
Danbatta came into office as EVC of NCC in August 2015 for a five- year period in the first instance. The first term ended in August, 2020 after which the he was reappointed by the President.
This sustainability and consistency in the leadership of the Commission and in policy initiatives under Prof. Danbatta in 2020, therefore, allowed the Commission to uninterruptedly carry on with a number of regulatory activities towards ensuring increased access to telecoms services, ensuring increased consumer education and protection, boosting security of life and property, sanitising the industry while also supporting other initiatives that aimed at boosting innovation in the telecoms sector and continuously galvanizing the country’s overall economic growth.
In the year under review, growth statistics and major regulatory initiatives and policies undertaken by the Commission which have continued to put the industry on the consistent path of growth and keep the telecommunications sector resilient to support the national economy, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, are examined.
In Numbers: Industry statistics
1. 14.30% contribution to GDP:
According to official telecom industry data as released by the Nigerian Communications Commission, the telecoms contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased to over 14.30% as of second Quarter of 2020, according to data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
2. Financial value worth N2.272 trillion in Q2, 2020:
In financial value, the 14.30% translates to N2.272 trillion in Q2, 2020. Whereas, telecoms contribution as at December 2019 was 10.60%.
Also, telecoms investment continued to grow in leaps and bounds in 2020 beyond $70 billion.
3. 208 million active mobile voice subscribers as at October 2020
Nigeria’s active mobile voice subscribers increased from 184 million in December, 2019 to 208 million by October, 2020.
This represents an additional 24 million active mobile lines accessed by Nigerians across mobile networks from December, 2019 to October, 2020.
4. Teledensity crosses 100%
Meanwhile, teledensity (the total number of telephone lines per hundred people in an area) increased from 96.76% in December, 2019 to 108.94% by October, 2020.
5. Increased connectivity as broadband connectivity surpasses 45%
NCC’s regulatory activities also resulted in increased connectivity in the country. From, 126 million in December, 2019, Internet subscriptions rose impressively 152.9 million as of October, 2020.
In the same vein, broadband (i.e. high-speed Internet) penetration maintained an upward swing to 45.93% in October, 2020, up from 37.80% in 2019.
6. Over 150,000 Mobile Number Portability
Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service continued to offer wider option of service for telecoms consumers in 2020.
In the year under review, 158,128 telecom consumers ported their lines between January-October, 2020, as against over 120,000 lines that were ported in 2019.
The increase in MNP service usage is due to increased public education and awareness by the Commission’s head office and its zonal offices, as they intensified awareness on the availability, usage and benefits of MNP across geo-political zones.
7. NCC resolves over 98% Consumer complaints
The Commission was able to successfully resolve over 98% of the total consumer complaints received from telecoms consumers via the NCC Toll-Free Number 622, NCC Consumer Portal, social media platforms and written complaints.
Subscriptions by telecoms consumers to the NCC’s Don-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 service reached over 30 million in 2020 compared with 22 million in 2019.
Furthermore, the following are the various regulatory initiatives embarked upon by the leadership of NCC, which has resulted in the impressive aforementioned statistics quoted above. Each of these is examined, in turns, below.
Moving to 2021, we believe that NCC’s regulatory excellence will help operators who are looking into providing an expanded set of services with higher bandwidth: educational services, entertainment services, digital-business building—for example, supporting retail customers in being able to sell online.
Why? increasingly, people are realizing the strong value of not just a broadband connection but a very viable, robust, and resilient broadband connection; remote working will prevail in the coming year hence connectivity is now at the root of digital economy.