The Nigerian Telecoms Sector: Thriving in the Midst of Current Challenges

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15 years ago; to be precise in 2001, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief with the arrival of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). Prior to this time, the now defunct NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited) provided majority of the telephone lines in existence with only a few private service providers offering telephony services to wealthy Nigerians and large corporations. Owning a mobile/landline phone in Nigeria was considered luxurious – a yard stick for determining affluence.

However, with the introduction of GSM in neighboring countries like Benin and Togo, Nigerians found it hard to imagine just how easy mobile-phone ownership was for the “common” man in these countries. These observations, whether real or imagined further exposed Nigeria’s inability of joining the GSM global community.

Fortunately, the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo sold GSM operating Licenses to successful bidders. Since then, telecoms operations has been largely successful but not without a few expected setbacks.

Fast forward to 15 years later, the telecoms industry is one of the most competitive in the country. It is amongst the few services which Nigerians have benefited from price reduction due to fierce competition amongst the key market players.

It has added thousands of jobs into the Nigerian economy. Apart from the telecoms sector being an employer of labour, the advent of mobile telecoms services has created new jobs; enabled the setting up of new businesses, had a positive impact on SMEs (Small and Medium Scale Enterprises) and promoted virtual offices for startups.

Today, mobile telecoms penetration is at its peak and there are more connected towns and cities now than ever before. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), as at March 2016, there were 148.74 million and 92.4 million active voice and internet subscriptions respectively (see map). Owning a mobile phone is no longer considered a luxury, it is in fact a Nigerian necessity.


Olusegun Osifuye