From 167,091 recorded last year, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country recorded increase in their active customers to hit 182,093 at the end of first quarter of this year.
According to data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), more ISPs have also become active in the last year as 65 operators with active customers were captured, compared with 39 in the same period of last year. The 65 ISPs had a total of 338,028 connected customers, out of which 182,093 were active.
This showed that 155,935 subscribers for the service have become inactive. Despite the increase, the ISPs’ subscription figure is in sharp contrast with that of the four mobile network operators (MNOs) whose active internet subscribers stood at 144.5 million as of March this year.
While NCC’s database showed that there are currently a total of 191 licensed ISPs in the country, only 65 of them have a significant number of customers, according to the report. Industry analysts attributed the increase in MNO’s internet subscriptions at the expense of the ISPs to factors of price and target customers.
According to them, while a mobile subscriber can access the internet with just N100, such is not available on the ISPs service, which is targeted mainly at corporate organisations, who pay heavy charges for monthly or yearly subscriptions.
Before now, the ISPs have been complaining about serious pressures from the MNOs who are regarded as big players, but are also playing in the ISP space as their Universal Access Service Licence (UASL) also permits them to do so. The intense competition, coupled with other operational challenges such as increasing capital and operational expenditure, have been cited as the bane of the ISPs in the country.
From the NCC’s data, which showed the position of the ISP business as of March this year, Spectranet emerged as the leader in the ISP business as it had the largest share of subscribers among the 65 ISPs whose data were made available.
Out of the 182,093 active subscriptions across the networks, 117,252 of them are Spectranet customers, thus accounting for 64 per cent of the total active customers.
Tizeti came second with 14,591 customers, followed by ipNX which had 10,085 active subscribers. Other active ISPS in the country include Astramix Limited with 10,000 customers; VDT Limited with 7,624 active customers, Cyberspace Network Ltd with 3,682 Cobranet with 3,428, Radical Technology Network Ltd, 2,285; Hyperia Limited, 1,389; and MainOn with 1,476 active customers.
According to the NCC report, the 65 ISPs have a total of 1,658 points of presence across the country.
Aside from the mobile network operators, the ISPs play critical roles in providing lastmile connectivity to people across cities, rural communities, and underserved communities and are key to achieving the country’s target of deepening broadband penetration.
However, there had been a slide in the number of active ISPs present in the market, and the scope of services they offer, a situation that has raised serious concerns among industry stakeholders and the regulator.
According to NCC, the current number of service providers, despite new licensees, is still lower than the over 200 recorded in about 10 years ago.