Nigeria has come a long way in its mobile telecommunications journey and weathered many storms along the way, with several companies leading the charge away from the mediocre era of Nitel. A lot has changed and a lot will continue to change as companies position themselves to trot with the times.
A while back, Nitel, a publicly-owned telecommunications company was the in-thing in Nigeria. But corruption, mismanagement and general laxity in embracing new ideas ensured the company never became what it was supposed to be. And with the deregulation of the telecommunications sector, it was only a matter of time before the company vanished in the jaws of death.
From its ashes, and following the deregulation of the telecoms sector, came new companies that soon rose to become the maestros of the game in Nigeria, snagging large chunks of the market share in Nigeria. These companies are MTN, Globacom (abbreviated Glo), Airtel, and 9mobile (formerly Etisalat).
In this article, we try to rank these mobile networks by coverage and market share. You’re welcome to tag along as we roll. Yes?
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Here comes the yellow boys. Yes, that is what MTN is often called down here because of the distinct yellow colour it adopted for its logo. It has long stuck and become a part of its identity. MTN is a South African company and also boosts the highest network coverage and market share in Nigeria.
As of February 2023, the company boosts about 79.1 per cent in its 4G coverage in the country, making it the highest of the lot (compared to other mobile carriers in the country). It has also gotten a 5G licence and rolled out services on the band across select locations in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, at the time of writing, MTN has a market share of 43 per cent (vide the NCC), which puts it atop the league, ahead of Glo and others
Globacom was a late entrant into the mobile telecommunications market. It faced stiff opposition from the likes of MTN and Airtel (formerly Econet), who had told Nigerians that per-second billing wasn’t possible. But Glo forced them to reconsider that when it launched and introduced sim cards on Nigeria’s independence day for just N1 (one naira).
Nigerians, who had never had it so good, queued for days to get Glo sims. In the intervening years, Glo had kicked Airtel out of the number 2 spot in the ranking of mobile telecommunication companies in Nigeria. Glo would soon become a victim of its own success, as network congestions provoke sporadic howls from Nigerians.
Glo’s coverage is not at par with MTN and its market share also lags behind, at 28 per cent, according to data from NCC.
Airtel Nigeria has often been imagined as the promising kid who somehow lost his way and that’s in the contest of the telecoms service provider losing its second place among the top network providers by rank and market share. Airtel, which has had a couple of name changes since its coming to Nigeria (think Econet, Zain…), started before Glo but couldn’t maintain its space.
Now, based on data from the NCC, Glo has taken its spot, leaving it with a market share of just 27 per cent. Obviously the numbers aren’t far apart, which means that Airtel can still claim its spot easily, with proper marketing and service delivery.
Fate had dealt some savage blows to the bloke here, who ranks as the fourth and correspondingly last on our list of four. The carrier was previously known as Etisalat but had a name change along the line as new owners took over. In the intervening years, its subscriber base has continued to shrink.
At the moment, vide NCC data, 9mobile has a measly 9 per cent market share. Its coverage is also not as extensive as, say, MTN.