Low-price smartphones key to broadband penetration

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By Martin Ekpeke By the United Nation’s assertion that more people have access to mobile phones than to toilets globally, experts have said the number of smartphone penetration in Nigeria put at 12 million by the Nigerian Communications Commission is abysmally low.

The proliferation of smartphone will ostensibly help to grow to grow the country’s economy by promoting access to information, communication, education and commerce. It will also challenge the telecommunications industry to rapidly grow its infrastructure and capacity to keep up with demand

They believe that more is expected from a country like Nigeria that boasts of over 146 million active mobile subscribers, adding that the rapid drop in smartphone pricing will play a major role in bringing Internet connectivity to the country over the next few years, and will uplift the economy in the process.

Olusegun Salami, senior manager, Transmission Access Planning at MTN Nigeria
Olusegun Salami, senior manager, Transmission Access Planning at MTN Nigeria
According to Olusegun Salami, senior manager, Transmission Access Planning at MTN Nigeria, the number of smartphone usage in Nigeria is disappointing given the size of the country’s population and the proliferation of digital activities. He said in this era of social media and other web contents, smartphone with multiple functionalities is the driving force behind broadband penetration. “Everybody wants to be connected on the go, but access to these smartphones remains a challenge in Nigeria, where citizens spend 5.5 percent of their income to own a phone,” he said while making a presentation at the Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) quarterly seminar series held in Lagos last week. Asked what MTN as a leading mobile network operator is doing in that regard, Salami said MTN has in a bid to get more Nigerians access to the Internet launched smartphones that go for as low as N10,000 and N8,000. Through these smartphones, he stated Nigerians are accessing several initiatives like mobile money, mobile health, e-learning and Agriculture through the smartphone.

In this era of social media and other web contents, the number of smartphone usage in Nigeria is disappointing given the size of the country’s population and the proliferation of digital activities. Smartphone with multiple functionalities is the driving force behind broadband penetration

The modern computer is the smartphone with multiple functionalities. Apart from infrastructure, one of the key factors to improve broadband penetration in Nigeria is access to low price smartphone. The price of smartphones is still a problem, that’s why Nigeria still has less than 30 percent smartphone usage. According to information available at the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigeria currently has 10 percent broadband penetration, out of the 30 percent target by the National Broadband plan 2013-2018. Meaning, midway into the target, Nigeria could not get 50 percent of the target, while Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt have all attained 30 percent penetration.

Some undersea cables in Nigeria
Some undersea cables in Nigeria
No doubts, broadband is here with several submarine cables carrying about 9 terabytes of data. The challenge has always been the distribution of the data to the lastmile and the usage by the citizens. For Nigeria to drive broadband penetration, and get citizens to leverage, the ownership of a smartphone should be encouraged. Thanks to several reports claiming that 20 percent of smartphones being sold on the African continent cost less than $100. This gradual drop in prices is helping to make smartphone more accessible to a larger market in Africa. Nigeria has attained over 100 percent teledencity, but smartphone penetration is only 30 percent. The question is how can the country lift smartphone penetration closer, so that more citizens can enjoy mobile broadband services as the current numbers that have access to basic GSM services? “The key lies in the falling prices of smartphones and other smart devices, so that high-quality, affordable smartphones can be pushed to as many people as possible in Africa, said Caesar Sengupta, Vice President, Product Management at Google during the launch of Infinix Hot2 smartphone in Lagos. The Infinix Hot2 smartphone, which runs on the Android One OS is part of Google’s strategy to invade the emerging markets such as Nigeria with affordable and quality smartphone that will help more people get access to the Internet.

The rapid drop in smartphone pricing will play a major role in bringing Internet connectivity to the country over the next few years, and will uplift the economy in the process

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According to Google, Africans are using the Internet in very unique ways, they are leveraging on the Internet to boost economies, thereby living a better, richer lives and create opportunities for themselves and their communities. With over 4 billion people expected to be on the Internet by 2017, Google said its attraction is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Today, 33 percent of the world’s population is on the Internet, 1 billion Youtube video views per day, 100 billion searches on Google each month and over three billion Internet users across the world. Nigeria is gradually leapfrogging the PC era to the mobile, post-PC world. Out of the 87 million people that use the Internet in Nigeria, 43 percent access it through feature phones, 30 percent through Desktop, while 27 percent accesses the Internet via smartphones for entertainment, shopping, social networking and commercial applications. The proliferation of smartphone will ostensibly help to grow to grow the country’s economy by promoting access to information, communication, education and commerce. It will also challenge the telecommunications industry to rapidly grow its infrastructure and capacity to keep up with demand. Mobile operators will also need to keep investing in national backbones and last-mile connectivity to cater for the extra strain put on their networks by the millions of smart devices that will enter the market in the next few years. The Internet is in Nigeria, the key to unlocking this opportunity is getting it from the doorstep and into the homes and offices. inteNigeria has one of the world’s largest mobile subscriber markets and the availability of more low-cost smartphones will definitely fuel growth in data traffic. Smartphone shipments to Nigeria soared 135 percent year-on-year in 2014, spurred by the increased availability of low-cost models and dual-SIM devices, according to Q4 2014 Handsets Tracker released by International Data Corporation (IDC). Thanks to Chinese mobile phone manufacturers, pushing smartphone penetration in Nigeria, a price-sensitive market. In the last few years, the market has seen a growth in mobile phone ownership together with the availability of low cost smartphones. With many users owning more than one phone, subscriber numbers are expected to grow to more than 200 million in 2017.

Out of the 87 million people that use the Internet in Nigeria, 43 percent access it through feature phones, 30 percent through Desktop, while 27 percent accesses the Internet via smartphones for entertainment, shopping, social networking and commercial applications

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