Active internet connections in Nigeria have reached 159.5 million, but what is the status of 5G in the country?

Nigeria had 159.5 million active internet subscriptions across landlines, mobiles and VOIP, in May 2023, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

This means that there was an 8.6 percent growth from the 158.2 million registered in April 2023.

The NCC revealed that mobile network operators (MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile) maintained their dominance in the internet market with 159 million subscriptions, while VOIP operators, which include Smile Communications and Ntel, accounted for 335,121 internet subscriptions in May, while other internet service providers (ISPs) accounted for 204,810 internet subscriptions, as of December 2022.

The report showed that broadband subscriptions increased to 92.2 million in May 2023 from 91.8 million recorded in April 2023, or 48.28%.

What is allowing an increase in internet subscription?

Smartphones have become increasingly affordable in Nigeria in recent years which has made it easier for people to access the internet, although some reports claim that many still do not use their smartphones to access the internet and there are signs of fewer people opting for smartphones in the coming years.

On the other hand, 2G and 3G networks are still not going anywhere even though 4G and 5G have been launched, especially since many internet users access the internet through those older generation networks.

Ejike Kanife, the editor of Technext, confirms this in an article that says: “one of the most important reasons for keeping 2G and 3G alive, at least by telcos, is the wide coverage it offers them. Certainly, if MTN for example, has a slogan that says:Wherever you gohe wasn’t referring to his 4G or 5G network.”

He continues, “MTN Nigeria Chief Technical Officer Mohammed Rufai revealed that 90% of the Nigerian population has 2G technology, while over 83% of the population has 3G coverage,” so those passing networks will still be in use for a long time.

However, just as former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said, The 4G coverage rate across the country also increased from 23% to 77.52%. [in 2022].” This widespread penetration makes it easier to stream videos, download files, and play online games, and in turn, encourage other smartphone users to upgrade.

Active internet connections in Nigeria reached 159.5 million in May 2023

Additionally, the Nigerian government has prioritized the development of broadband and has invested in infrastructure and policies to promote broadband adoption.

For example, the National Broadband Plan is a roadmap for broadband development in Nigeria. The plan sets goals for Internet subscriptions and identifies several policy initiatives to achieve these goals.

The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act was passed to renew hope in the pursuit of critical infrastructure development in Nigeria through the use of alternative funding sources by attracting private investment capital in infrastructure development.

And the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), a fund used to provide subsidies for the development of broadband infrastructure in rural areas, has funded several projects to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Let’s not forget how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to work and learn from home, which has increased the continued demand for internet access.

Apart from these factors, there are other factors which are contributing to the growth of Internet subscriptions in Nigeria which are listed below:

  • The literacy rate in Nigeria has increased in recent years so more people can use the internet.
  • The youth population in Nigeria is proliferating and this is creating a demand for internet access.
  • Nigerians are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of the internet, such as education, entertainment and business opportunities.

But where is 5G in this conversation?

There is no single place to check the number of active 5G connections in Nigeria. Not when data is an almost non-existent conversation in Nigeria and telecom companies can only be forced to release the data.

However, you can get an estimate by looking at the number of 5G-enabled phones sold in Nigeria.


According to a report by the NCC, over one million 5G-enabled phones were sold in Nigeria in 2022. This number is expected to increase significantly over the next few years as more people switch to 5G-enabled phones, but that depends on affordability.

Another way to estimate the number of active 5G connections in Nigeria is to look at the number of 5G base stations that have been deployed in the country.

For example, MTN Nigeria’s 5G services are present in 13 cities (Lagos, Abuja, Owerri, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Abeokuta, Shagamu, Ifo, Warri, Enugu, Benin City, Kano, Port Harcourt) and over 700 sites in Nigeria, according to the company’s Chief Technical Officer, Mohammed Rufia.

In June, Airtel joined MTN to roll out its 5G network in four states, promising to cover every state in Nigeria by the end of the year. There is, however, no data on the number of base stations.

Of course, not all available base stations are active and not all 5G-enabled phones sold in Nigeria are currently being used on 5G networks. However, there will certainly be more demand for 5G connections, especially as there is now a certain level of competition and as more 5G base stations are being rolled out in the country.

It is also worth noting that the number of active 5G connections in Nigeria will likely be concentrated in urban areas. This is because 5G networks require more cell towers than 4G networks and are more expensive to install in rural areas.

The number of active 5G connections in Nigeria is still miniscule.

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