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Experts fault telephone users’ data, put subscriber base at 60m


Mobile phone billsALTHOUGH Nigeria has crossed the 100 per cent teledensity mark, with an estimated subscriber base of 148 million, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), but experts in the telecommunications sector, have however faulted the figure, claiming that the country’s unique (individual) telephone users are not more than 60 million.

The experts claimed that the numbers of connected telephone lines are wrongly interpreted as the same as number of individuals using phones in Nigeria.

Speaking at a forum in Lagos, the Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs, MTN, Quasim Odunmbaku, said the number of telephone users in the country should be between 50 million and 60 million. “The multi- SIMming nature of Nigeria is a factor to consider.

Nigeria may not have more than 50 million to 60 million SIM owners. According to statistics from the NCC, as at June, MTN Nigeria has 62.8 million; Globacom 31.3 million, Airtel 30 million and Etisalat 23 million.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications, Ike Nnamani, there is a wrong perception by many people that Nigeria has 148 million telephone users. “While we can say this loosely, it is, however, not true that this figure represent unique and individual phone users in the country.

It is wrong to pass the impression that Nigeria, with a population of 170 million has succeeded in having 148 million unique telephone users.

No! This is misleading. “Hence, what we have in Nigeria now as subscriber base, which is released monthly by the NCC, is the number of telephone lines that are connected and not the number of unique, individual users in the country.”

Nnamani pointed out that the initial poor quality of service that characterized telecoms operators’ network at the early state of the sector’s liberalisation in 2001, the initial limited network coverage by the networks which resulted in the multi-SIMing nature of most telecoms subscribers in the country were to a greater extent responsible for the surge in the figure.

Explaining further, Nnamani said: “You will recall that more than 40 per cent of Nigerians, mostly in the rural areas, do have multiple SIM lines and that is why you people carrying more than one phones about.

This trend also cuts across different social strata of the society such as business people, government officials, youths and so on. “Consider somebody who travels from Lagos to one rural area in Calabar, for instance.

So, assuming the person uses one network here in Lagos and by the time he gets to Calabar, there is not service on that network. The tendency is that he will get the SIM of the network that works better in that location.

This means, invariably that such a person will have two SIMs at his disposal. “Also, when that same fellow remains in Lagos and the network on his existing network is bad, he can easily buy another SIM and since the cost of mobile devices has also come down, he gets another phone, whether feature or smartphone and insert the new SIM there and he starts making calls.”

The President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Lanre Ajayi, who also spoke at the weekend on the development said, anywhere in the world, ‘subscribers’ are calculated based on the number of lines connected, saying this however, does not mean in our case the market is saturated. If you have noticed, our teledensity is now over 104 per cent with the current 148 million active lines.

But the good thing is that the investors understand that this not to mean that the industry is saturated as to prevent foreign direct investment (FDI).

The investors also understand this that Nigerians re multiple phone users and, by implications, use more than one telephone lines,” he said.

Meanwhile, the NCC has clarified the perceived misunderstanding in its earlier directive for telecoms operators to deactive unregistered SIMs on their network.

According to a statement by the NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, said only those subscribers, who register their SIM cards properly will have them reactivated after the operators had deactivated them.

The Commission said the clarification has become necessary following the deluge of enquiries at the Commission some of which alluded to the impression that their SIM cards have been withdrawn permanently, saying “This is not the situation.

According to Ojobo, the deactivation exercise and decision was a result of a meeting with the office of National Security Adviser (NSA), the Department of State Service (DSS), the NCC and operators “after which the operators were given one-week to deactivate those unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards.”

The operators were specifically told that those subscribers whose lines were not registered and have not made any effort to register them should be communicated before deactivation. “So the deactivation of these SIM cards is in line with that meeting.

Subscribers who fail to register properly will have their lines deactivated but those who comply will have them reactivated,” Ojobo said.

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