Following the Federal Government directive in 2004, that all telephone operators in the industry must initiate plans to start printing airtime vouchers (popularly known as recharge cards) locally, the telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Licensed 14 companies to start the printing and distribution of recharge card in Nigeria.
Over the years, recharge card business has become an enormous one driven by the growth of the Nigerian Telecomms subscriber base that has witnessed about 1.2M monthly additions.
Our estimates show that recharged card is one of the fastest selling GSM products in the country’s telecoms market; recording daily sales of over N1billion worth of recharge cards.
Recent Airtime Retail studies by eShekels indicate that, consumers of telecom services mostly purchase recharge cards from roadside hawkers (36%) and operator outlets – umbrella shops (24%). This medium appear most patronized because of ease of access and availability to subscribers whenever the need arises.
Studies also show that airtime resellers have ease of access to products and are also able to choose from many variants; considering the introduction of new telecom operators to the market. Presently there are applications powered by telecom operators that allow dealers to print recharge cards especially the lower denominations (N200, N100).
Though GSM recharge cards enjoy a majority patronage, the emergence of CDMA mobile services also enable its recharge cards to be readily available. Reports show generally, that telecom subscribers find it very easy to use recharge cards. However, there are a few cases where vouchers get damaged as a result of pressurized scratching.
The 100 naira denomination is most patronised across all GSM operators among subscribers, this also applies to fixed operator recharge cards as subscribers patronize the lowest denominations available. These indicate that lower denominations (500 naira and below) control a larger share of the market.
Currently, the Airtime Retail business will experience a steady growth as recharge card sales increases. However, the future of this platform may change significantly as the drive towards e-payment and mobility is being attained. In the nearest future, the channels of distributing airtime will change to mostly e-transfers and payments. This may eliminate long chains and channels previously being used.