Mobile operator Airtel Nigeria has announced a strategic partnership with Chinese device manufacturers Infinix, Tecno and Itel. Under the partnership, customers who purchase a new Infinix, Tecno or Itel smartphone will enjoy an exclusive Airtel Double Data Offer for a six-month period. The offer allows customers to enjoy twice the value of any data plan they purchase on their newly-acquired smartphones. For instance, if customers buy the NGN 1,000.00 (US $2.76) monthly data plan on any of the participating smartphones, they get 3 GB instead of 1.5 GB of data. The offer is available to both new and existing customers of Airtel.
Budget smartphones, often manufactured in China, have made very significant inroads into the global smartphone market, especially in developing economies but by no means limited to those. In any market, it is often worth an operator’s while (and investment) to get smartphones into the hands of as many subscribers as possible, on the grounds that once they have the devices, those customers will use them to consumer ever-increasing amounts of mobile data.
In developed markets where most users already have smart devices, such concerns are less pressing than in developing ones where data consumption is the province of a small minority of mobile customers. As of May 2018, Nigeria had a smartphone penetration of 18.5 percent, so the market has a long way to go before it reaches the saturation point. Giving current feature-phone subscribers and non-subscribers an incentive to purchase a cheap smartphone will pay dividends by driving data revenue to the mobile operator that does so.
Other than ensuring that the price of the device is sufficiently low, an operator can incentivize users by discounting data. A two-for-the-price-of-one data deal could be an effective incentive, considering that it is directly targeted at the functionality of the device in question, and given that it will cost the operator relatively little. So in that sense, Airtel’s Double Data Offer could well have the desired effect of converting more mobile users to data users. The fact that this is a partnership not with one device manufacturer, as is usual, but with three makes it even more persuasive, as giving consumers the choice they increasingly demand.
However, since at least a good number of the people Airtel is targeting with this offer are currently not using any data at all, and are therefore newcomers to the whole concept of mobile data, a double data offer may be less attractive that it would be to users who already know the value of a megabyte.