‘Why multi-SIM ownership is increasing in Nigeria’
NCC plans stiffer sanctions on operators
The need to stay connected at different locations in Nigeria has been identified as one of the major reasons multi-SIM ownership appears to be on the increase in the country, which currently has 154 million active subscribers.
A report by the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications Association (GSMA), made available to The Guardian, which established this fact, after a survey, linked this to increasing poor quality of service (QoS) from the various networks in the country.
Indeed, while the number of subscribers seems to be heading towards the roof, the gap in infrastructure roll outs, amidst other challenges is over-stretching the various network capacities, which makes congestion and subsequent drop calls, undelivered SMS become inevitable.
GSMA observed that in developing countries more than a third of multiSIM users claimed they switch between different operators to make use of the best call quality in certain locations, due to the variable network quality in their region.
According to GSMA, in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Tanzania more than half of multiSIM users said that network quality was a key reason why they use multiple subscriber identity module (SIMs).
The body, which represents the interest of over 800 mobile operators across the globe, discovered that price sensitivity also remained a strong factor in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Tanzania and other developing economies, where up to a third of multiSIM users said they regularly buy new SIM cards to take advantage of discounts and promotions.
The report disclosed that globally, the average number of SIM cards owned per mobile subscriber declined to 1.44 in 2016, from a high of 1.50 in 2012. The GSMA Intelligence Consumer Survey 2016, showed that variable network quality is the second biggest driver of multiSIM ownership, after separate SIMs for personal and business use.
It pointed out that the higher the perceived network quality in a country, the less likely consumers are to own dualSIM handsets and switch between different operators for better network coverage.
“In developing markets in particular, coverage and network quality remain key levers in operators’ customer retention strategies and competitive positioning,” said Francesco Rizzato, the author of the report.
Meanwhile, at the weekend in Oye Ekiti, during a Consumer Town Hall meeting, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) again read the riot act to operators including MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Etisalat over the abysmal fall in QoS, warning of possible sanctions if they failed to improve their services.
NCC Director in charge of Consumer Affairs Bureau, Alhaji Abdullahi Maikano, said: “The event was an initiative of NCC to bring telecom consumers in the urban areas together with network operators and regulator to discuss and proffer solutions to consumer related issues.
“We have to protect consumers from market exploitation and empower them to make rational and informed decision when making their choice of services.
“We hereby directed that service providers must always communicate with our consumers in plain language and such must be relevant, timely and accurate. They should also ensure that access to information is made possible at all times.”
Commenting on the state of telecoms services, a source at MTN, said the telecommunications firm is rolling out more Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and optimising them for 4G and improving the 3G infrastructure to be able to meet subscribers demands.
The source, who said services may not get to the peak until existing challenges including RoW, multiple taxations, and vandalism, among others are overcome, informed that the telecommunications firm is rolling out more metropolitan fibre infrastructure to boost services across Nigeria.
Speaking on the growing multiSIM development, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, in a telephone interview with The Guardian, observed that some network operators are strong in some region, stressing that Globacom is very strong in the South West, while MTN and Airtel are stronger in South East, while in the North, Etisalat is trying. He pointed out that the insurgency and other damages to telecom infrastructure is another issue that must be considered for the multiplicity of SIM cards.
Ogunbanjo said multiSIMs will increase because people must communicate, “however, I see many people with three SIMs will drop one and maintain just two because of the recession.”
According to the GSMA report, poor network quality at a particular location is also critical, with the report claiming that half of the surveyed mobile subscribers living in developing countries own a dualSIM handset. It disclosed that Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Nigeria have the highest ownership rates, with more than two thirds of respondents possessing a phone with two SIM slots.
“Our survey showed a strong correlation between ownership of dualSIM handsets, ownership of multiple SIM cards for coverage reasons, and a higher average number of SIMs per subscriber.”
The report observed that consumers are more likely to own multiple SIMs from different operators and use dualSIM handsets in those markets where network quality is perceived as poor and few if any operators provide nationwide coverage.
Rizzato claimed that survey results such as these highlight that in developing markets in particular, extending coverage and reducing variability in network quality can help operators boost customer retention and strengthen their competitive position.
“However, consumers in developed and developing countries have other, differing reasons for multiSIM ownership. While the average number of SIMs per subscriber (SIM ratio) does not differ significantly between developed and developing regions, there exist significant variations in the SIM ratio at a country level.”
The report added that the need for separate SIM cards for personal and business use remains the main driver for multiSIM ownership at the global level.
“In our survey, one in five users of multiple SIMs in developed countries claimed that as well as their primary mobile device, they use at least one other device with cellular connectivity. In Australia this is the main driver of multiSIM ownership, with more than two in five multiSIM users saying they have a second connected device with a SIM. The US and South Korea are close behind, with more than a third of users quoting the same reason.
“Meanwhile, 15 per cent of multiSIM users in developed countries claimed they require multiple SIMs for travelling, both within their home market and abroad, because coverage varies by operator,” the report claimed.