Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nigerian Mobile Market in Full Throttle

The Nigerian mobile market’s bullish growth showed no signs of abating in Q4 08. Quarterly net additions of 7.15m took the total number of customers over 60m, with a year-end figure of 62.99m, while the annual gain stood at 22.59m. By comparison, Q4 07 saw an increase of 3.39m and the 2007 boost was 11.92m. Meanwhile, the latest figures from Nigerian regulator the NCC show that at the end of January the total had risen to 64.16m.

There are now four mobile CDMA networks operating in Nigeria, and they contributed significantly to the quarterly gain. On aggregate, they added 1.93m customers in Q4, only just behind the record gain of 2.01m recorded in the previous quarter. This took the total mobile CDMA customer base over 6m with an end-2008 total of 6.05m, although the NCC’s figures show that there was a net loss in January which took the base back down to 5.87m. In terms of individual operators’ performances in Q4 08, Visafone overtook Multi-Links during the quarter with an excellent figure of 0.98m net additions. It finished on 2.21m compared to 1.99m for Multi-Links, which added 0.51m in the quarter. Meanwhile, Starcomms added 0.36m to break the 1m barrier, finishing on 1.16m, and Reliance reached 0.70m in its second quarter of operation.

Of course, the CDMA market remains a relatively minor part of the total, with less than 10% of Nigerian mobile customers at the end of 2008. The market leader is MTN, which recorded a gain of 2.91m – a Nigerian record. It finished on 23.08m, almost 6m ahead of nearest rival Celtel which ended the year with 17.20m customers. Having seized second place from Glo Mobile in Q3 08, Celtel consolidated its lead in Q4, adding 1.29m customers compared to 0.63m for Glo, which finished the year on just over 16m. The two remaining networks in Nigeria are government-owned Nitel, which had 0.26m customers, and the new Etisalat/Mubadala-owned entrant, which managed to gain almost 0.4m customers in its first quarter of service.

On a proportionate basis, the total market grew by 55.9% in 2008, up from 41.9% in 2007. Amongst the top three operators, Celtel led the way with 55.0% growth, ahead of MTN (39.8%) and Glo (30.9%).

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