Nigerians shun number porting, activate new SIMs
Checks by The Guardian show that in the first quarter of 2022, activities around porting declined sharply with subscribers opting for new SIMs.
Statistics from the Commission of the Nigerian Communication (NCC), which revealed this, showed that between January and February, there were 3,151 port-in activities compared with 2,890 port-out activities. Setting the figures against each, it showed that the quartet of MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9mobile exchanged just 261 subscribers.
Specifically, in January and February, MTN saw 2,482 port-in activities each while Airtel saw 555. 9mobile had 114 while none was recorded for Globacom. For port-out activities, Airtel saw 1,815 subscribers left the network in January and February. Within the same period, 87 users left Globacom; 780 left 9mobile just as 208 ported from MTN.
However, within the same period, subscribers activated 2, 659,433 new SIMs. Specifically, in the first two months of the year, 1, 077, 675 SIMs were activated on Airtel network. MTN recorded 1, 339, 002 lines as Globacom and 9mobile had 169, 975 and 53, 565 respectively.
Findings showed that while there were new users on the networks, some subscribers activated new lines to bridge quality of service gaps.
The NCC launched the mobile number portability service for GSM subscribers in April 2013, which was targeted at promoting competition, improving the quality of service and ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy the excellent experience on the mobile networks.
“The MNP enables consumers to switch networks without losing their cellular phone numbers,” NCC stated.
A consortium of three companies, Interconnect Limited, Saab Grinteck and Telecordia, got licences in 2012 to facilitate the service as the Number Portability Clearing House for the industry.
According to the NCC, the MNP is a service that ensures a subscriber retains their mobile phone number when changing from one mobile service provider to another. It added that it is available to all GSM mobile subscribers.
Since MNP works on the Mobile Subscriber ISDN Number and not the International Subscriber Mobile Identity, it affects all MSISDN-based services like SMS, MMS, voice calls and other prepaid services.
According to the commission, while subscribers can port from one network to another, there is a 45 days-imposed restriction time within porting.
Some subscribers, who spoke with The Guardian, claimed that having the four networks became necessary because of the poor quality of service (QoS) offered by the operators..
Adeyemo Idowu, an engineer, said the purpose of number porting has been defeated because “which of the networks can we say will guarantee service quality? I don’t see any of the four. So, today, I belonged to three of the networks.”
Nduka Abiagwu said he ported from Globacom to Airtel at the introduction of the service as “one of those pioneer porters, with the hope of guaranteed service but after about four months into it, I had to start using the four lines, but despite that, am not satisfied. Lately, the services have gone from bad to worse.”
A telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, believes that the frenzy over number porting has gone down drastically because people do not get the much-expected improvement in terms of service quality.
Aluko noted that though porting activities were on the rise in 2020, the Federal Government banned the sales of new SIMs and other related activities due to SIM-NIN linkage in December 2020, leading to a drop in the number of porting activities in the industry.
According to him, three years before the SIN-NIN linkage exercise, the number of subscribers that ported or changed their telecoms service providers was 86, 978 in 2018, 139,022 in 2019, and 182,958 in 2020.
On his part, the President, the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo, disclosed that the drop in porting activities had to do with service quality.
Ogunbanjo said if subscribers are not satisfied, they will look for where and how to get satisfaction.
According to him, the current NIN-SIM too is another factor. “Subscribers would rather go to a telcos outlet, where they know they can get new SIMs, register it, get NIN and start calling. I believe that in another three months after we must have carried this linking exercise to a reasonable point, the issue of quality of service will be a major focus.”
Ogunbanjo, while appealing to subscribers, believed that the NCC would ensure service qualities are improved across the networks.