Despite the threat of Over the Top (OTT) services, Whatsapp, Facebook, etc, mobile network operators in Nigeria realised approximately N38 billion from short message service (SMS) in 2018.
This indicated that Nigerians still pay for text messages amidst availability of different data-based free messaging platforms.
Industry data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed that the telcos recorded 9.5 billion outgoing SMS in the 12 months period. Based on the fixed cost of N4 per SMS, the operators pocketed N38 billion from the service in the period under review.
The MNOs had, over the years, been complaining that the operation of OTTs in the country has been eroding their revenue from text messages.
However, according to NCC, the 9.5 billion SMS were only those sent within the country (local), as the operators also recorded 51.5 million outgoing international SMS. This depicts that the operators also realised significant revenue from messages sent to receivers outside the country, as the costs are higher than that of local SMS.
Analysis of the data showed that MTN recorded the largest number of SMS sent locally within the year with 3.6 billion SMS sent over its network. Airtel trailed with 3.5 billion, while Globacom recorded 1.8 billion. Subscribers on 9mobile network sent 455.9 million SMS, while Smile recorded 25.5 million. Ntel recorded the least SMS, as its subscribers sent 3.4 million within the period.
Record of international SMS showed that MTN also led the pack, as its subscribers sent 31.2 million. Airtel’s recorded N10.4 million international SMS, while Globacom incurred 5.3 million. 9mobile’s subscribers sent 3.9 million to networks out of the country, as Smile and Ntel recorded N348,016 and N106,541 respectively.
Industry analysts noted that while the rate at which telecoms subscribers use SMS might have reduced due to the embrace of OTTs, its use cannot be completely taken over by the free messaging platforms.
According to them, some messages, especially for formal communications are best sent via SMS, hence, it may never be out of use by subscribers.
As technological innovations evolve, new means of communications have kept budding, leading to the emergence of the OTTs. This has seen a change in consumption pattern of telecom consumers, as many now prefer communicating via Skype, Facebook or Whatsapp to making calls or sending text messages.
Incidentally, all these OTT services ride on the telcos’ networks, but the operators said they make little or no returns from the OTTs, as they would in voice calls and SMS. Consequently, telecom companies, not only in Nigeria, but also across the globe, have been complaining bitterly over dwindling revenues.
Speaking recently on behalf of all the telcos at an industry forum, Chairman Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, challenged the regulator on why it should remain technologically neutral over the issue of OTTs.
According to Adebayo, “the idea of technology neutrality is what allows the OTTs to operate in Nigeria without any license, at the expense of the licensed operators. They are eroding our revenue. The licenses we have enable us to provide voice, data and text message services and these are the avenues through, which we make money.
“However, today, people are no longer sending texts because of the OTTs. Our voice and text message revenues have been affected because subscribers now prefer to send messages over Whatsapp or Facebook rather than text messages; video calls are also gradually replacing the regular voice calls. If we must maintain the $70 billion investments in the telecom sector, government must balance authorisation between our services and these disruptive technologies. We are losing money. People that have no presence and no license in the country are the ones making money, the regulator must be concerned about this.”
Meanwhile, the NCC’s data also revealed that a total of 121.9 billion outgoing national calls were recorded across the networks in 2018, while total incoming calls were 107.3 billion. According to the report, MTN also recorded the highest total outgoing and incoming Traffic of 90.5 billion and 87 billion respectively in the period under review. Airtel recorded 16.6 billion outgoing calls and 13.3 billion incoming calls, while Globacom’s calls record stood at N8.6 billion and N26.4 billion for outgoing and incoming respectively. 9mobile recorded 5.1 billion outgoing and 6.8 billion incoming calls, while Ntel had 769 million outgoing and 58.9 million incoming calls. Smile recorded 140.5 million outgoing and 10.8 million incoming calls on its network.