Nigeria’s Top List Of Mobile Network Operators

Nigeria's Top List Of Mobile Network Operators, Nigeria’s Top List Of Mobile Network Operators, INFINITY LOADED
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1. MTN Nigeria

MTN is a multinational telecommunications company from South Africa with a subdivision in Nigeria that doubles as the country’s biggest national unit. The company was founded in 1994, and in only 29 years of existence, it has grown to become the market leader in Nigeria, and of course, in Africa. MTN Group is also one of the largest mobile operators in Nigeria.

While the company has a presence in over 20 countries, over 30% of its total revenue is from its Nigerian subsidiary, and as hinted earlier, the company holds a 35% market share in the country.

While MTN Nigeria mostly experiences ups, it has its fair share of downs as a result of its service in Nigeria too. For example, the viral South African xenophobic violence of 2019 drove many enraged Nigerians to vandalize MTN stores here in Nigeria, prompting the Minister of Information to release a statement clarifying that most of the shareholders and staff of MTN Nigeria are Nigerians.

Also, the company was slapped with a $5.2 billion fine in 2015 due to its noncompliance with the NCC’s SIM registration policy, forcing many company executives to resign. Despite these challenges, the company was able to overcome and assert itself as the leader among mobile network operators in Nigeria.

2. Airtel Nigeria

While Airtel Nigeria is similar to MTN Nigeria by its shared foreign ownership, Airtel has its history more deeply rooted in Nigeria. Oldies would know that the company started in 2001 as Econet, the first company to start offering any form of mobile connectivity services in Nigeria at the time.

 Thanks to Econet’s unbelievably rapid growth, it quickly got acquired by Vodacom in 2004, a company that rebranded to Vmobile after Vee Networks took over the company’s management. Two years after the Vee Networks takeover, Celtel acquired Vmobile.

In 2008, Celtel sold all of its shares in the company to Zain Group in a deal worth more than $3 billion, leading to a rebrand that stuck. Just two years later, Indian multinational telco, Bharti Airtel, bought Zain for $10.7 billion, overseeing the company’s rebrand to Airtel Nigeria in the years that followed.

Thanks to some structural reforms, Airtel Nigeria is now a subsidiary of Airtel Africa, a company that’s in turn a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, the Indian multinational. Airtel Nigeria is also publicly traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange at N363 per share.


If there was an award for the most ‘Nigerian’ mobile network operators in Nigeria, GLO would come first, as it’s pretty much the only network operator founded, led, and still owned by a Nigerian in Nigeria to this day. Unlike Airtel, MTN, and Etisalat, it doesn’t have a history of ownership or acquisition by foreign companies and tycoons.

As you probably already know, GLO is the brainchild of one of Nigeria’s richest men, Mike Adenuga, and despite the company’s massive success over the years, it’s yet to go public. While it started as a telco, it has since expanded to include real estate and property development, petroleum marketing, and crude exploration and marketing (Conoil).

While a significant of GLO’s telco operations are based in Nigeria, it has launched in some other African countries like Ghana and Benin. It also seems to be making moves to dive into the juicy Cote d’Ivoire market, having acquired submarine cable landing rights.

4. 9mobile (Formally called Etisalat)

9mobile (formerly Etisalat) is currently one of the most embattled network operators in Nigeria, going through a major restructuring process that came after it became unable to pay its huge debt to a consortium of Nigerian banks. It allegedly ‘sold’ itself to Teleology Holdings soon after an attempted takeover by the consortium of banks, a deal that was shrouded in secrecy and is now being debunked.

As expected from a telco going through so much trouble, 9mobile’s user base kept dropping, with the company shedding nearly half of its entire user base from September 2015 to March 2020, a trend that continues to show no signs of slowing down.

While 9mobile’s ownership continues to be shrouded in secrecy, one thing we know is that it’s not gaining a significant market share increase anytime soon. Its shoddy leadership and unnecessarily expensive internet rates only reinforce the company’s downward trend, and 9mobile doesn’t seem to know how to learn from experience.

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Emilio Lejit

Educationist, Blogger, Content Developer, Web Developer/Web Designer, Webmaster.

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