Thursday, 21st September 2023

Cash crunch cuts telecoms growth as operators lose 1.02m subscribers

By Adeyemi Adepetun
19 May 2023   |   4:00 am
Telecommunications operators have lost about 1.02 million subscribers as of the end of first quarter, 2023.


• Teledensity drops by 0.53%, broadband penetration loses 528,575 users
• Subscribers experience hitches over new unified short codes

Telecommunications operators have lost about 1.02 million subscribers as of the end of first quarter, 2023.

Subscription statistics released by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday (March edition), revealed this.

While the country entered the new year in January with 226.2 million subscribers, it increased to 227.2 million in February and fell to 226.2 by the end of March.

The drop in subscriptions could be attributed to the cash crunch that ravaged the country between February and March. This was fallout of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) policies on naira redesign and cash withdrawal limit, targeted at boosting the country’s cashless policy.

Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Africa, Segun Ogunsanya, in the company’s audited financial report, as of March 31, 2023, confirmed the impact of cash crunch on the operations of telecommunications firm.

In the report, Airtel Nigeria raked in N980 billion ($2.128 billion) from its services for the financial year ended March 31, 2023. This represents a 20.3 per cent growth year-on-year, compared with N864.9 billion ($1.878 billion) recorded in the same period last year.

According to the report, released by Airtel’s parent company, Airtel Africa, the Nigerian arm recorded a 13.4 per cent growth in voice revenue to N484.9 billion ($1.053 billion), while data revenue for the period rose by 27.8 per cent to N407.1 billion ($884 million).

Airtel, however, pointed out that the results would have been better but for the cash scarcity experienced in the first quarter, which slowed down revenue.

The company added that 50 per cent of total recharges by Nigerians are cash-based, which was why its revenue was impacted by the crunch.

FURTHER analysis of the NCC subscription data showed that the country’s teledensity dropped by 0.53 per cent. It moved from 119 per cent in February to 118.4 per cent in March.

Interestingly, total Internet subscription across all technology platforms, including GSM, Fixed Wired, ISP (Wired/Wireless) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) witnessed growth, moving from 156.9 million in February to 157.5 million.

Nigeria, through the New National Broadband Plan (2020 to 2025) hoped to deepen penetration in the country by 70 per cent, however, by the end of March, the period under review, users dropped by 528,575. It moved from 92.5 million in February to 92 million in March.

Largely, MTN remains the largest operator in Nigeria with 91.5 million users and 40.5 per cent penetration. Globacom is next with 60.7 million and 26.9 per cent market reach, while Airtel is third with 26.7 per cent and 60.3 million users. 9mobile is fourth with 13 million users and 5.82 per cent penetration.

MEANWHILE, a large number of subscribers, yesterday, decried hitches faced while navigating and utilising the new harmonised short codes for telecoms operations in the country.

Recall that NCC approved harmonised short codes, which took effect from Tuesday, May 17 and are expected to work across all mobile networks in the country.

The new USSD codes are: 300 for call centre/help desk; 301 for voice mail deposit; 302 for voice mail retrieval; 303 for borrow services; 305 for stop service; 310 for check balance, and 311 for credit recharge.

Also, the common code for data plan is now 312. In line with the new direction, 321 is for share services, while 323 is for data plan balance. The code, 996, is now for verification of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration/NIN-SIM Linkage. The code, 2442, is retained for Do-Not-Disturb (DND) unsolicited messaging complaint management, while the common code, 3232, is also retained for porting services, otherwise called mobile number portability.

However, confusion set in for large numbers of subscribers, yesterday, as many claimed they were not aware of the new codes.

Speaking with The Guardian, Mrs. Adekunle Ojo, a fashion designer, said: “I got confused when I tried to load credit on my phone. I tried *555# several times but was denied. It was one of the customers that hinted me about the new development.”

Another user, Emeka Aniogbu, a spare parts seller at the popular Ladipo Market, Oshodi, said: “I tried making calls, but I was told my credit was low. I tried to check my balance on 9mobile, using *232#, but no response. I thoughts the network service was bad. Later, however, a friend told me of the new harmonised code. I think there should be more awareness on this new development.”