Telecoms

MTN, Airtel, Globacom, 9mobile lose 3.7m subscriptions in one month

.Nigeria’s teledensity plunges to 98.8%

Leading telecommunications operators in the country, MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile lost a total of 3.7 million subscriptions in April, TechTrackAfrica reports. This brought the total loss of mobile connections between December 2020 and April 2021 to 19.2 million.

According to the industry data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s total mobile subscriptions as of April end stood at 188.3 million, declining from 192 million recorded in March this year. As of November 2020, the mobile operators had a total of 207.5 million active subscriptions.

With the steep decline in the number of active mobile connections, the country’s teledensity, which measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living within an area, also declined from 100.80 per cent in March 2021, to 98.86 per cent in April. In November 2020, Nigeria’s teledensity stood at 108.92 per cent.

Impacted severely by the Federal Government’s ban of new SIM registration effective from December last year, the network operators who were before then recording over one million new subscriptions each month had experienced a huge decline in their customer database. According to the government, the suspension, which took effect on December 9, 2020, is to allow a proper audit of the SIM registration database to ensure that all mobile lines in the country are properly registered.

Although the ban was lifted on April 19 with a condition that new SIM buyers must present the National Identification Number (NIN), NCC data showed that the losing streak continued in the month.

According to the NCC’s industry data for April, all the operators recorded a decline in their subscriptions database. MTN Nigeria, which remained the largest mobile operator by the number of subscriptions in the country lost 1.1 million subscriptions in the month. This saw its database declined to 74.8 million from 75.9 million it recorded in the previous month. Globacom emerged as the biggest loser of the month as it lost a total of 2.3 million active subscriptions. This brought its total subscriptions to 50.5 million from 52.9 million it recorded in the previous month. The company, however, retained its position as the second-largest operator despite the loss. Airtel lost 207,542 active subscriptions, which brought its database to 50.1 million.  9mobile also slipped as it shed 71,228 subscriptions in April. This brought its total subscriptions to 12.7 million from 12.8 million it recorded in March.

The lifting of the ban on new SIM registration by the government on April 19, 20221 came as a huge relief to many Nigerians who had been cut off from telecommunications due to the ban and even the telecom operators who had consistently lost millions of subscribers over the months.

The lifting, however, came with a condition that the customer must have registered for the National Identification Number (NIN) and submit the same at the point of purchase of a new SIM. According to a statement signed by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, activation of new SIMs and the resumption of other activities earlier banned was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, industry analysts have described the four moths ban as unnecessary as the audit, which the NCC had done several times before now, could have been done without stopping the sales of new SIM. According to them, the ban ordered by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy had only succeeded in dragging the telecoms sector backward.

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