15.9m Students Spend N159bn On Mobile Data Monthly

Nigerians students in senior secondary schools and undergraduates in various Nigeria’s higher institutions are spending an estimated N159 billion cumulatively on mobile phone data monthly, LEADERSHIP checks have shown.

According to available data, there are an average of 13.9million students in public and private senior secondary schools nationwide and another two million undergraduates scattered across the nation’s higher institutions.

Many of the students that LEADERSHIP spoke to admit that they now spend an average of N10,000 per month on data as a result of the current high level of data depletion experienced across the four major telecom companies in the country.

This amounts to 15.9 million students who spent about N159 billion, translating to an average of N10,000 per student monthly on mobile data, LEADERSHIP findings revealed.

Further investigations revealed that the virtual teaching and learning now being adopted by some secondary schools, universities, polytechnics and other higher institutions had further increased data consumption of students post-Covid-19.

This is in addition to the contents consumed by these same students on social media, especially, on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook and twitter, among others.

Some, especially, final year students spend huge amounts of data on research for their graduation projects.

To this end, the students would be spending N1.908 trillion over a period of twelve months in a year, thereby, allowing the major mobile telecommunications networks, especially, MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9mobile, accrue a lot of profit from data consumption in the country.

Hence, Nigerian undergraduates have lamented the huge amount of funds they spend on data monthly, saying they are not getting value for money and are suspecting foul play by mobile telecommunications networks.

Therefore, they have called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to investigate reasons behind the recent data depletion.

Data Depletion, which occurs when a subscriber exhausts his or her data bundle before the expiration date, or when more than volume is utilised for accessing online content greater than what the subscriber believes it should be, or what it ought to be, has been a major issue in the telecom industry, with Nigerians voicing their frustration in recent times.

For instance, a student from Lagos State University (LASU), Prosper Adegun, said he spends between N8,000 to N10,000 on data monthly.

“That is more than what I spend on feeding, on a monthly basis. No doubt, data is life, but the rate at which data is depleting is alarming. I will be glad if the NCC can do something about it,” Adegun said.

Oladipupo Ramadan, a 200-level student of LASU, said: “A few years ago, I wasn’t able to exhaust 2GB in a month, but right now, 6GB is not enough for me. I keep wondering what is happening to my data. If data is something I could do without, I would have joyfully ignored it, as it is consuming my money. Sadly, it has become a necessity for all of us.”

A 300-level student of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Femi Adewoye, who relies on data for his research, classes, and staying connected with friends, expressed frustration at the speed at which the data is consumed.

He said: “I often find myself running out of data before the month ends, and it affects my ability to study and keep up with my coursework. The amount of money I spend on data is outrageous. Network providers need to improve their service delivery.”

Responding to allegation of data depletion, the telecoms industry regulator, NCC, said data depletion is one of the most prevalent complaints received from telecom consumers in the country. It noted that most of the complaints came as a result of the consumers’ recent migration to 4G and 5G/LTE technology.

“It is, therefore, important that we completely appreciate and understand the issues surrounding data depletion, its usage, and consumption in the era of 4G technology before we fully commence 5G usage. As much as the commission has an obligation to the telecom consumer, it also has an obligation to the industry, a symbiotic relationship in which one party cannot survive without the other.

“The consumers are the basis for the operators’ business; if their interests are ignored, the operators’ investments would collapse, and there would be no industry for the Commission to regulate,” it stated.

Explaining further, the director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity, NCC, Engr. Edoyemi Ogoh, stated that a number of variables, both technical and non-technical, can cause the problem of data depletion that telecom subscribers are experiencing.

Ogoh, who gave the explanation during the 91st Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) organised by NCC said, technically, even if a user has merely opened a website to read text, most browsers play videos by default.

He mentioned other silent data-draining issues, such as automated app upgrades and smartphone uploads of images and videos to the cloud.

Other technical aspects, he said, includes faster internet brought about by the switch to 4G, which automatically plays video in higher quality formats, using more bandwidth.

“Non-technical factors that contribute to data depletion are the growth of social media; online advertisements and default audio-visual activations in web browsers and apps; the use of subpar and fake subscriber devices; the expiration of data bundle usage timelines prior to data bundle exhaustion; and the low purchasing power of subscribers, which leads to the purchase of small bundle sizes with short periods of use and an increased frequency of data depletion complaints,” he stated.

Meanwhile, NCC’s CEO and executive vice chairman, Dr Aminu Maida, has declared that starting from January this year, it will closely monitor the quality of services provided by the nation’s four major telecom providers.

Maida gave assurance that the NCC would sit down with the operators and look at the challenges.

“In my engagement with the CEOs of telcos, I had to let them know that we need to make sure everyone, irrespective of their location, gets value for their money. There are challenges everywhere, whether it is diesel or security, but because of the criticality of the telecoms infrastructure, we must not fold our hands,” he said.

On the part of the consumers, Maida affirmed that the regulator would continue to enlighten consumers to understand the habits that drive greater data usage, “because as we upgrade our phones, we are buying phones with stronger data tolerance which are producing better quality pictures and posting them on our social media platforms, but fail to realise that these habits consume data faster.

“We are also going to be focusing on issues that have escalated. We are going to be stepping in, as a regulator, to see what are the common issues that consumers are complaining about, what are the regulators doing about them, so that we can really hold everybody in the value chain accountable. We are also going to see how we can improve the general security, integrity from the consumers’ perspective.”

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