Nigerian youths are debating the claim made by the federal government earlier in December that the cost of one gigabyte of data has been halved from the average cost of N1, 000 in January 2020 to N487.18 in November of the same year.
New National Star interacted with a cross-section of young Nigerians who used different telecommunication networks and while some are of the opinion that the government has not reduced the cost of data, others agree that indeed the cost has reduced.
Ibukun Omole, a writer who uses Etisalat, says, “I think it is true because of the reduced price at which we purchase data compared to earlier in the year. But given the devaluation of the Naira, the reduction might not have much effect at the consumer end.” He also says that data ought to be free in the interest of the Nigerian masses. “Also, data should be free. If our telecommunications sector was built in the interest of the masses and not in the interest of big businesses.”
Margaret Olabode says she has not noticed such changes. “It is a lie and sadly, one gigabyte of data does not last for me,” she laments. She is hopeful though about the announcement made by Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy about the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) that would reduce the average cost of a gigabyte of data to 390 naira by 2025 over the period of five years. Olabode who uses MTN and Airtel networks says, “It is necessary they reduce it.”
Ayomaria Adesua, a pharmacist and user of Globacom services, says he still buys data at the normal rates adding that his network provider’s data bundle prices are relatively cheap when compared to others . “I am still buying data at the normal rates, no changes have been made yet,” the pharmacist says. “Yes, they said so, but I hardly check my usage of data. I just believe when my data goes low I should top it. But my monthly subscription usually lasts a month. I also buy three gigabyte for 1,500 naira on MTN,” Peter Ekpeyong says.
A software engineer, Mark Karm, says that he has not noted such reduction except it was the NNBP five-year-plan. He says, “I use Airtel which could be cheap and accountable. There is no such reduction but I don’t know about other networks. They are lying.” In 2019, a study by United Kingdom-based broadband research firm, found out that the average cost of 1 gigabyte of data in Nigeria was 1,000 naira.
As of April 2020, WeeTracker put the average cost of 1 gigabyte of data at N1,000. Depending on the network, New National Star observes that the cost of data has reduced over the months. On Globacom, the monthly subscription of 1,000 naira will get the user 2.9 gb, on MTN, the same amount would get the user 1.5 gb. Etisalat offers data subscribers 3 gb for 1,500 naira while Airtel 1 gb cosst 1,000 naira.
Most Nigerians purchase data from these companies for their daily internet consumption. While cheaper data bundles may exist they are within a timeframe, for example, on the MTN night plan, 500 megabyte (mb) costs 50 naira and could only be used within the hours of 12am to 5am at once.
Others use cheat codes to get data from their telecoms service provider where the cost of data might be slightly cheaper. On the global scene, Nigeria data cost is cheaper that 43 countries only, the UK-based company asserts. Isa Pantami in 2019 directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to compel telecoms service providers to reduce the prices of data.
During the coronavirus pandemic, and the lockdown that was put in place to curb its effects, most of Nigeria’s young population turned to their phones and social media to network and keep in touch with their friends and in some cases school work.