Nigeria internet remains costly as data depletion worsens. A data scientist and digital creator, Lengdung Tungchamma, told the media that over the last two months, he has purchased data subscriptions four times. In his words, “Just the other day, I acquired 112 gigabytes for ₦16,000, only to see it depleted in less than two weeks.” He said that he also invested ₦350,000 in a 400GB plan that was meant to last three months, but it barely lasted for a month.
Tungchamma relies on MTN 4G and 5G routers for connectivity. He acknowledged that his data usage is on the heavier side, but he finds the situation concerning. He agrees that he is a heavy data user, but he thinks that this was absurd. It was only when he observed the rapid depletion of data that he decided to scrutinize his usage. “What is evident to me is that this situation is unsustainable,” he said. It is also not uncommon for Nigerians to joke about going bankrupt from buying data.
Internet speed in the country is still much slower.
According to indications by Surfshark’s 2023 Digital Quality of Life Index, Nigerians, like Tungchamma, must dedicate approximately three hours of work each month to afford mobile internet. This is staggeringly 11 times more than the situation in Luxembourg, which boasts of the world’s most affordable mobile internet. Residents of Luxembourgers need just 16 minutes of work per month to cover it. Also, Nigeria internet quality is notably sluggish, with average mobile internet speeds clocking in at 47 Mbps.
At the speed of 310 Mbps, the United Arab Emirates has the fastest mobile internet. The slowest is found in Venezuela, which barely reaches 10 Mbps. But according to Agneska Sablovskaja, a lead researcher at Surfshark (a virtual private network [VPN] provider), the internet is very slow in many African countries. Even if people can afford the internet, they still face limitations in what they can do. The case of Nigeria is one of such. As of 2022, Nigeria had nearly 84 million internet users. Aside from the high cost and low quality of the internet, several users like Tungchamma have to deal with data depletion.
Upsurge in technology responsible for these issues.
This issue occurs when a subscriber exhausts his or her data bundle before the expiration date or when more data volume is utilized for accessing online content. “What is worse is that no one explained anything from MTN, the data cost has gone higher and then the value has dropped massively,” Tungchamma said. Meanwhile, according to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), the increased internet depletion is due to the global explosion of new technologies. Muhammed Babajika, the director of licensing and authorisation at the NCC, said that consumers are experiencing what they refer to as abnormal depletion of their data within the context of the subscription and usage of the internet.
He said that this was going by the documented upsurge in the use of computers, smartphones, smartwatches, and other technology-dependent devices which have given consumers access to multi-functional comfort and utility. For instance, it is not uncommon for operating systems to download critical updates in the background without the option of opting out. In cases like this, unsuspecting users have their computers and/or their smartphones download these updates, some of which are gigabytes in size. There have been cases of 10 gigabytes of data depleted in just two hours on downloading critical updates.
Some reasons for data depletion are non-technical.
Edoyemi Ogoh, NCC director of technical standards and network integrity, also argues that some of the reasons for internet depletion are non-technical. Ogoh said that some of these non-technical factors include low purchasing power leading to small data bundles, social media growth, lack of awareness, and sub-standard devices. In March, the NCC said that it was going to introduce measures to curb data depletion for telecom consumers. Seven months later, no specific strategy has been announced. Meanwhile, as efforts to curb data depletion are yet to be disclosed, telecom operators plan to increase the cost of the internet due to the high cost of running their businesses.