By Segun Oruame
You want to browse for free in Nigeria? Try Opera Mini. In less than three minutes of your phone being configured to have the necessary application downloads, you are online, browsing for free in Nigeria’s fast growing mobile Internet market. But free net downloads from Opera Mini, a web browser designed primarily for mobile phones, is not the reason for Nigeria’s fast rising Internet uptake. It is the mobile Internet services from the army of GSM and CDMA networks in the country’s telecom sector of some 75 million phone subscribers.
There were 200,000 Internet users as at 2000 to a population of 142,895,600 representing 0.1 % penetration according to Internet Usage Statistics by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). However, by 2009, growth has escalated positively to 7.4% of the population with Internet users rising to 11,000,000 as at June at 2009. Census estimate for 2009 according to the Census Bureau was 149,229,090.
Internet usage has been largely driven by the fast uptakes of mobile telephony and fixed-wireless services notably CDMA networks. Internet diffusion has followed the rapid uptake of mobile phones which networks have leveraged on to provide Internet access as additional revenue stream. Quite remarkable is that Internet access grew to 5,000,000 or 3.1 % of the existing population as at 2006, five years after GSM services were first launched and less than three years after mobile Internet went commercial on GSM networks.
As is the rest of Africa, Internet penetration has been slowed down by the high cost of access. Before the commercial entry of mobile Internet, Internet access largely depended on the costly acquisition of PC and premium subscription to one of the licensed Internet service providers. In a country with high population of low income earners, subscription was limited to only a small number of people and in few cities.
But with mobile Internet at less than N7000 ($50), subscription rose dramatically to make Nigeria one of the biggest mobile Internet market on the continent. Mobile Internet has expanded in several African countries to extend reach for an otherwise under-covered large section of the population in major cities with a large pool of commercial activities or cities with large number of educational institutions.
As one recent report indicates, the dynamics for Internet penetration are changing helped by increasing competition and newer technologies “able to deliver wireless broadband access. More than 400 ISPs have been licensed as well as a number of data carriers, Internet exchange and gateway operators. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is already carrying the bulk of Nigeria’s international voice traffic. The current deployment of the country’s first Next Generation Networks (NGN) will drive further convergence of voice, data and video/TV, enabling the provision of triple-play services that will ultimately also involve the country’s already competitive broadcasting sector.”
Virtually all mobile operators offer mobile Internet services helping to fuel their popularity and usage. The result has been a greater presence of Nigerians online and an increasing popularity of local and international sites. Newspapers sites are the most visited while those of e-payment sites are the least visited to give a cursory picture of how the various industries are performing online. [See graph in ‘Tapping the Nigerian Internet market goldmine’]
Spread in Internet shares similar traits with several African countries such as Ghana and Kenyan as observed by a report on the mobile Internet in Kenya. “Cell phone internet subscribers make up a majority of the mobile data category which also includes access to internet through computers using the plug and play modems.”
Operators are bound to gain. It is an additional revenue stream that could see voice playing less significant role in their revenue portfolio as the need for data and web access increases overtime. “Access to the internet through cell phones is set to emerge as a significant revenue opportunity for mobile operators, analysts say, adding that consumers are also benefiting immensely from the convenience of portable internet.
“According to Opera, a software company that studies trends in mobile browsing, Opera Mini alone — controlling 30 per cent of the global mobile browser software — mobile internet users generate more than $4 billion per year for operators globally, using an average pricing of $1 per megabyte.
“When people browse more, it is a win-win situation as operators receive more revenue, users have more incentive to upgrade their data plans, and people get the Web pages they want in an efficient and affordable manner,” said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO Opera Software.
Nigeria Telecoms Market Statistics and Forecasts
Nigeria is one of the biggest and fastest growing telecom markets in Africa with still huge further growth potential in all sectors. It is expected that the recently privatised incumbent, Nitel, will compete more aggressively and effectively in the future, and that a new unified licensing regime introduced in 2006, allowing all operators to provide both fixed and mobile services, will accelerate market growth going forward. Both fixed and mobile service providers will benefit from the increasing demand for Internet access and broadband capabilities. This report contains key statistics and scenario forecasts for the country’s fixed-line, mobile and Internet markets for the years 2010 and 2015.
Source: Alireta Nigeria Limited (www.alireta.com)
Internet Usage and Population Growth:
YEAR Users Population % Pen. Usage Source
2000 200,000 142,895,600 0.1 % ITU
2006 5,000,000 159,404,137 3.1 % ITU
2009 11,000,000 149,229,090 7.4 % ITU
Opera Mini is a web browser designed primarily for mobile phones, but also for smartphones and personal digital assistants. It uses the Java ME platform and consequently requires that the mobile device be capable of running Java ME applications. Opera Mini is offered free of charge, supported through a partnership between its developer, the Opera Software company, and the search engine company Google. Opera Mini was derived from the Opera web browser for personal computers, which has been publicly available since 1996. Opera Mini began as a pilot project in 2005. After limited releases in Europe, it was officially launched worldwide on January 24, 2006. Opera Mini requests web pages through the Opera Software company’s servers, which process and compress them before relaying the pages back to the mobile phone. This compression process makes transfer time about two to three times faster, and the pre-processing smooths compatibility with web pages not designed for mobile phones.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.