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Telcos lose 3.3m lines to NIN-SIM directive as subscriptions dip

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• Airtel, MTN mostly affected as Internet users drop by 563,837
• ‘Operators lose N1.98b to inactive SIMS, non-registration’

Federal Government’s directive to stop registration and activation of new Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards in the country might have resulted in the loss of about 3.3 million subscribers to telecom operators in December 2020.

Latest subscription statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), yesterday for December 2020 showed that active telecoms subscribers fell by 3.3 million. Specifically, as at November 2020, there were 207.9 million active users, but by the end of the year, the figure dropped to 204.6 million. This also impacted the nation’s teledensity, which lost 1.74 per cent. It fell from 108.92 per cent to 107.18 by December 2020.

Analysis of operators’ performance of the NCC data showed that Airtel lost more subscribers within the period. It had 57.2 million subscribers in November 2020, but dropped to 55.6 million and lost 1.5 million active users, followed by MTN, which lost 1.25 million consumers. It had 82 million subscribers in November, but the figure fell to 80.7 million at the end of 2020.

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Globacom lost 249,194 subscribers. It had 55 million users in November 2020, but it dropped to 54.8 million by December, while 9mobile, which had 13.2 million users in November 2020 lost 206,510 subscribers at the end of December 2020.

In spite of the losses, MTN remained the largest operator with 39.5 per cent penetration, followed by Airtel with 27.2 per cent, Globacom retained third position with 26.8 per cent, while 9mobile came fourth with 6.36 per cent market share.

Federal Government directive, which took effect from December 15, 2020, hindered telecom operators from activating new SIM cards and even affected SIM swaps.

Subscribers, who lost their telephone lines during the period were finding it difficult to retrieve their lines, as most users have not registered for their National Identification Number (NIN), while those with NINs were yet to link them with their SIMs.

The statistics further showed that the country lost 563,837 Internet subscriptions as users dropped from 154.4 million in November 2020, to 153.8 million in December, while broadband subscription also fell by 89, 940 from 86 million in November to 85.9 million in December.

NCC’s report on QoS from January to July 2020 showed that 9mobile and Globacom failed to meet the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in 19 states of the federation, while Airtel failed to meet the KPI in Ogun State, but MTN met its KPIs in all states of the federation.

It indicated that the other telcos failed in Dropped Call Rate, Call Setup Success Rate, Standalone Dedicated Control Channel Congestion Rate and Traffic Control Channel Congestion Rate.

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The states with poor telephony services during the period under review are Nassarawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Yobe, Kwara, Kebbi, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Taraba, Borno, Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Gombe, Osun and Ogun.

Giving insight into the drop in active subscriptions and poor QoS, Nigeria Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Olusola Teniola, said the dip showed strong correlation between the SIM registration directive and impact on SIM subscription numbers.

“However, the more relevant and measurable data is the drop in voice due to migration to OTT voice application and waning consumer spending as a contributor,” he said.

Also, Executive Secretary, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Ajibola Olude, said it was evident that reduction in active subscribers was due to many factors, among which are, the COVID-19 pandemic and directive on linkage of NIN with SIM.

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