The Federal Republic of Nigeria is Africas biggest mobile telecoms market with more than 150 million subscribers in 2017. This is shared by 4 national GSM providers:
- MTN Nigeria
- Glo Mobile (by Globacom)
- Airtel Nigeria (by Bharti Airtel)
- 9mobile (formerly Etisalat)
2G up to EDGE is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G up to HSPA is on 2100 MHz with all 4 providers. 4G/LTE has started in 2016 with MTN on 2600 MHz (7) and 800 MHz (20), Glo on 700 MHz (28) and 9mobile on 1800 MHz (3) and Airtel is about to start in 2017 most likely on 1800 MHz (3) as well.
There have been minor CDMA operators in the country, but the biggest of them called Visaphone was acquired by MTN in 2016 and users were migrated to their GSM and the operator closed in 2017.
Recently, some new operators on 4G/LTE-only have emerged, that provide high speed internet in the major cites so far as a substitute for non-existent home ADSL lines and for mobile use. They can't recommended for travelling the country so far and are listed at the end of the article for more stationary use:
- NTel: 900 MHz (8) and 1800 MHz (3) with free 2G/3G roaming on 9mobile
- Smile Nigeria: 800 MHz (20)
Two further LTE-only providers called Spectranet and Swift operate only on 2300 MHz (40) TDD-LTE solely aimed at modems and routers in Lagos and a few other cities. That's they are not mentioned in this article.
Market situation Edit
Nigeria moved from 4 million in 2003 to 153 million mobile subscribers and a penetration rate of 107% at the end of 2016. 99% of them are shared by the 4 major networks. This rapid growth has led to problems with congestion and quality of service, prompting the regulator to impose fines and sanctions on the operators. They responded by investing billions of dollars in base stations and fibre optic transmission infrastructure to support the increasing demand for bandwidth.
The Nigerian market is one of the most competitive in Africa with the lowest prices and many promotions. This has prompted the regulator to apply a "price floor" (or minimum price) on voice and data tariffs 2013-16 in a bid to prevent the dominant operators from squeezing competitors and to encourage more investments into infrastructure. After public protests this policy was dropped in 2016.
In summer 2017 Etisalat from the UAE exited the country after debt restructuring talks failed. The operator was rebranded to 9mobile and is still looking for a new investor.
Coverage is generally good, but data networks are often congested and 4G/LTE has only started recently. In the northern states of the country the terrorist group Boko Haram has created difficulties for network provision and maintenance.
The mobile penetration is above 100% because many locals have 2 or more SIM cards. Nigeria is dual-SIM world leader with a market share of 66% dual-SIM phones in 2015. Nowhere else in the world devices holding two SIM cards are more popular. This is because of the variable network situation, many promotions and low starter prices.
New SIM cards are sold for ₦ 200 or even less. You should go to a major store of one of the 4 providers and bring along your passport as registration is made there. This is required since 2012. Top-ups for the 4 major providers are sold by hawkers in form of scratch recharge cards at every street corner.
MTN Nigeria Edit
South African-based MTN is still the mobile market leader with a total subscriber base of 53 million in 2017 which is around 35% of national subscribers. MTN has invested heavily in Nigeria in recent years. They bought CDMA-provider Visafone and moved their clients to its own network.
In 2016 MTN launched 4G/LTE in the cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and coverage will be expanded to other parts of the country in the near future (LTE coverage map). It utilises the 2600 MHz (band 7) frequency so far for LTE, but received additional spectrum on 800 MHz (band 20) from the Visaphone acquisition.
You should buy a SIM card in one of their SIM Card Registration Centers (list). It should not cost more than ₦ 200-300. For 4G/LTE you need a special 4G-enabled SIM card.
All new starters will enjoy a Starter Pack. Top-ups of ₦ 100 or more are given with a 500% bonus for 6 months. But this bonus can only be used for calls, SMS and default data (no packages) for 7 days. After 6 months, you will moved to the BetaTalk plan with only top-up 250% bonus.
To top-up, buy a yellow MTN recharge card and enter *555*<voucher PIN>#. Or by credit card on the international MTN top-up site for a surcharge. To check general balance *556#, bonus balance, enter *559*17#.
A MTN number will be held for 180 days of inactivity. If you want to keep your number for longer, you can get an annual subscription for 500 ₦ by *365*1#. This auto-renews after one year. To opt-out, dial *365*2.
Data feature packages Edit
Default rate is ₦ 0.05 per kB (or ₦ 50 per MB). These packages are offered:
|50 MB||24 hours||₦ 100||104|
|150 MB||24 hours||₦ 200||113|
|150 MB||7 days||₦ 300||102|
|500 MB||250 MB||7 days||₦ 500||103|
|1 GB||500 MB||30 days||₦ 1000||106|
|2.5 GB||1 GB||30 days||₦ 2000||110|
|5 GB||30 days||₦ 3500||107|
|10 GB||30 days||₦ 5000||116|
|22 GB||30 days||₦ 10,000||117|
|50 GB||60 days||₦ 20,000||118|
|85 GB||90 days||₦ 50,000||133|
Bonus data is valid only at night 1am-7am. To activate, text code to 131 or enter *131# and choose plan. To roll over your unused data balance to the next period, renew your bundle before expiration. Auto-renewal applies to any data bundle. To cancel auto-renewal text 'NO<activation code> to 131. To check your active bundle(s) and data balance(s), text '2' to 131 or dial *131*4#.
For social media they offer special bundles for Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp, Eskimi or 2go. The weekly pack for one app is ₦ 25 with 5 MB and the monthly pack is ₦ 60 with 25 MB, all activated by *662#. Special Blackberry plans are available too.
More info Edit
- APN: web.gprs.mtnnigeria.net
- Website: http://www.mtnonline.com/
Glo Mobile (by Globacom) Edit
Glo Mobile by Globacom is no. 2 in the country with 37 million users (or 24%). Globacom Ltd. is a Nigerian privatly-owned multinational telecommunications company headquartered in Lagos. It currently operates in 4 countries in West Africa under the Glo brand.
In 2016 4G/LTE launched in 9 cities across the country, namely Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Jos, Warri, Eket, Benin City, Yola and Zaria. The 4G network will be extended to other major cities in the near future.
Their SIM cards are sold in their stores for up to ₦ 300. For 4G/LTE you need a new SIM card.
To top-up, buy a recharge card and enter *123*<voucher code>#. To check balance, dial *124*1#.
15% bonus on recharges of ₦ 100 and above done through the e-top-up channels is offered. It's given to subscribers when they top-up via any electronic channel, such as ATMs, bank USSD recharge code, mobile banking app, Glo Cafe, web merchants, point-of-sale terminals or direct purchase from a Glo shop.
Data feature packages Edit
Glo has the cheapest data plans in the country right now. They come in two versions as 3G and 4G/LTE-enabled plan. But the rates for both lines are the same:
|Single Data||Double Data||Validity||Price||Activation|
|15 MB||30 MB||1 day||₦ 50||*127*14#|
|35 MB||70 MB||1 day||₦ 100||*127*51#|
|100 MB||200 MB||7 days||₦ 200||*127*56#|
|800 MB||1.6 GB||10 days||₦ 500||*127*57#|
|1.6 GB||3,2 GB||30 days||₦ 1000||*127*53#|
|3.75 GB||7.5 GB||30 days||₦ 2000||*127*55#|
|5 GB||10 GB||30 days||₦ 2500||*127*58#|
|6 GB||12 GB||30 days||₦ 3000||*127*54#|
|8 GB||16 GB||30 days||₦ 4000||*127*59#|
|12 GB||24 GB||30 days||₦ 5000||*127*2#|
|16 GB||32 GB||30 days||₦ 8000||*127*1#|
|23 GB||46 GB||30 days||₦ 10000||*127*11#|
|30 GB||60 GB||30 days||₦ 15000||*127*12#|
|45 GB||90 GB||30 days||₦ 18000||*127*13#|
All new customers and existing customers with a continous subscription get double data allowances. Customers who fail to renew their data plans within 3 days of the expiry of their data plans would get HALF the data volume called Single Data in the table.
To activate, enter *777# and choose 4G/LTE plan. For 3G plans use activation code. Plans don't auto-renew. One package can be shared by different lines. To add sharing dial *127*01*<phone number># or text “Share <number>” to 127. To stop use the same ways and *127*02* instead or replace Share by 'Remove' in the text.
More info Edit
- APN: gloflat
- Username and password: flat
- Website: http://www.gloworld.com/ng/
Airtel Nigeria Edit
Airtel Nigeria is a subsidiary of Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel. With 33 million subscribers (or 21.5%) it ranked no.3 in 2016.
Airtel is planning to launch 4G/LTE in 2017, but hasn't started yet.
Their 3-in-1-sized smart SIM is sold for ₦ 300 in their stores (list) with some airtime.
To top-up buy recharge vouchers from ₦ 200 and recharge *126*<voucher PIN># or by mobile top-up. Credit never expires as long as you top-up at least every 90 days. To check balance, dial *123#.
Data featured packages Edit
Their data plans are called Smart Speedoo. 160 MB per month are given out for free by entering *400#. By *401# you will surf on the default rate of ₦ 0.01 per KB (= ₦ 10 per MB). For more data they offer these packages:
|50 MB||1 day||₦ 100||*410#|
|200 MB||3 days||₦ 200||*412#|
|350 MB||7 days||₦ 300||*417#|
|750 MB||14 days||₦ 500||*418#|
|1.5 GB||30 days||₦ 1000||*496#|
|3.5 GB||30 days||₦ 2000||*437#|
|5 GB||30 days||₦ 2500||*437*1#|
|7 GB||30 days||₦ 3500||*438#|
|9 GB||30 days||₦ 4000||*438*1#|
|10 GB||30 days||₦ 5000||*452#|
|16 GB||30 days||₦ 8000||*460#|
|22 GB||30 days||₦ 10000||*462#|
|30 GB||60 days||₦ 15000||*463#|
|50 GB||180 days||₦ 36000||*406#|
|100 GB||365 days||₦ 70000||*407#|
|200 GB||365 days||₦ 136000||*408#|
All data plans don't auto-renew. Like on Glo you can share one package between lines by *141#
More info Edit
- APN: internet.ng.airtel.com
- Website: http://www.africa.airtel.com/wps/wcm/connect/africarevamp/Nigeria/
9mobile (previously Etisalat) Edit
9mobile is the smallest of the 4 major providers with 22.5 million users and a market share of 15% in 2016.
9mobile was called Etisalat Nigeria and owned by Etisalat from the UAE until summer 2017. Then Etisalat suddenly exited the country after debt restructuring talks failed. The regulator had to intervene to safe them from collapse. At the end of 2017 a bidding process is under way about how is to acquire the vacant network.
Operations are going on as usual. They are still said to have one of the most reliable networks in the country, often less congested with good speeds.
They sell their SIM cards in their stores (locator) at different tariffs. They don't make much difference for data as on all the same packages can be added. Unlike their competitors, with 9mobile no new SIM card for is necessary for LTE, that is only available in Lagos so far on 1800 MHz.
To activate a SIM card call 200. To recharge buy scratch cards and enter *222*<voucher PIN># or top-up online on their website. To check balance dial *232#.
Data featured packages Edit
Default data is ₦ 0.03-0.05 per KB (₦ 30-50 per MB). These bundles are offered:
|10 MB||24 hours||₦ 50||*229*3*8#|
|40 MB||24 hours||₦ 100||*229*3*1#|
|150 MB||7 days||₦ 200||*229*2*10#|
|500 MB||30 days||₦ 500||*229*2*12#|
|1 GB||30 days||₦ 1000||*229*2*7#|
|1.5 GB||30 days||₦ 1200||*229*2*25#|
|2.5 GB||30 days||₦ 2000||*229*2*8#|
|4 GB||30 days||₦ 3000||*229*2*35#|
|5.5 GB||30 days||₦ 4000||*229*2*36#|
|11.5 GB||30 days||₦ 8000||*229*2*5#|
|15 GB||30 days||₦ 10000||*229*4*1#|
|27.5 GB||30 days||₦ 18000||*229*4*3#|
|30 GB||90 days||₦ 27500||*229*5*1#|
|60 GB||120 days||₦ 55000||*229*5*2#|
|100 GB||30 days||₦ 84992||*229*4*5#|
|120 GB||365 days||₦ 110000||*229*5*3#|
All packages will auto-renew. To stop, enter *229*0# before. Unusued data rolls over when you purchase the same bundle again.
- APN: 9mobile
- Website: http://9mobile.com.ng
NTel is operated by NatCom Development and Investment and was the first to start 4G/LTE in 2015. Up to now they offer LTE-Advanced with advertized speeds up to 230 Mbps, but rather an average of 60 Mbps by congregating 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies. As a 4G-only network, you can only have voice supported of a few approved VoLTE devices (list of compatible devices) or VoIP.
They cover only Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt (coverage maps). That's why they couldn't be recommended for travellers, but they aiming for 4G mobile broadband coverage of 85% within the next couple of years.
In December 2017 a national roaming field trial with 9mobile was started. Both operators have earned the approval of the regulator to test national roaming over a period of two months. The trial will enable ntel customers to make calls on 9mobile’s network using any 2G or 3G handset,
To collect and activate a SIM card you need to visit the nearest NTel store (list) in one of the three cities covered. The SIM is given out for free, but you need to add a plan. The SIM is valid for 180 of inactivity.
To add credit go online or to a NTel outlet and buy airtime.
Data options Edit
These options are offered with real uncapped unlimited data:
- Smartphone Lite: ₦ 1,500, unlimited data for 2 days
- Smartphone Weekly: ₦ 3,750, unlimited data for 7 days
- Smartphone Monthly: ₦ 12,500, unlimited data for 30 days
More info Edit
- APN: vox
- Website: http://www.ntel.com.ng
Smile Nigeria EditFounded in 2007 and incorporated in Mauritius, Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd owns and operates 4G/LTE mobile broadband networks in the 800 MHz band in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
4G/LTE internet in Nigeria is available on 800 MHz (band 20) in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Abuja, Benin City, Kaduna, Onitsha and Asaba (coverage map). That's why they can't be recommended for travelers. Voice calls are mostly done through the VoIP of their app or VoLTE (compatible devices).
Their Smile Super Value starter pack is available for ₦ 1,000 in their stores (list). It includes 30 days’ access to social network sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, BBM and WhatsApp) as well as internet browsing amd 30 mins + 30 SMS to any number (available on activation of the SmileVoice App). Data speeds are reduced once 700 MB usage is reached.
You can top-up data bundle or value by credit card using their top-up site.
Data options Edit
For data you can add these bundles:
- Smile Lite at max. 2 Mbps for 30 days:
- 1 GB: ₦ 1,000
- 2 GB: ₦ 2,000
- Anytime with up to 100 Mbps:
- 3 GB for 30 days: ₦ 3,000
- 10 GB for 12 months: ₦ 9,000
- 15 GB for 30 days: ₦ 10,000
- 20 GB for 12 months: ₦ 17,000
- 50 GB for 12 months: ₦ 36,000
- 100 GB for 12 months: ₦ 70,000
- 200 GB for 12 months: ₦ 135,000
- 7 GB add-on for 30 days: ₦ 5,000
These bundles can be topped up directly online.
More info Edit
- APN: internet
- Website: http://smile.com.ng/