Active subscriptions for mobile services across the four GSM networks in Nigeria declined by 15.4 million between December 2020 and March this year, New Telegraph has learnt.
According to the latest industry statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), active subscriptions on MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile stood at 192 million as of Marchend, down from 207.5 million recorded in November 2020.
The unprecedented decline in the number of mobile users in the country came on the heels of the suspension of new SIM registration by the Federal Government.
According to the government, the suspension, which took effect on December 9, 2020, was to allow a proper audit of the SIM registration database to ensure that all mobile lines in the country are properly registered.
The ban was, however, lifted on April 19. With the decline in mobile subscriptions, the country’s teledensity, which measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living within an area, also declined from 108.92 percent in November 2020, to 100.80 percent in January 2021.
According to the NCC’s industry data, all the operators recorded a decline in their subscriptions database in the four months of SIM suspension.
MTN Nigeria, which remained the largest mobile operator by the number of subscriptions in the country, lost a total of six million subscriptions between December last year and March this year. This saw its database decline to 75.9 million from 82 million it had in November 2020.
Airtel emerged as the biggest loser in the period as it lost a total of 6.8 million active subscriptions.
This brought its total subscriptions to 50.3 million from 57.2 million it had in November last year. Globacom lost 2.9 million, which brought its subscription database to 52.9 million from 55 million it recorded in November.
However, with the minimal loss compared to Airtel, Globacom was able to overtake Airtel as of March-end to become the second-largest operator in the country. 9mobile also slipped as it shed 337,676 subscriptions in the period under review.
This brought its total subscriptions to 12.8 million from 13.2 million it recorded in November last year. The lifting of the ban on new SIM registration by the government on April 19, 20221 came as a huge relief to many Nigerians, who had been cut off from telecommunications due to the ban and even the telecom operators who had consistently lost millions of subscribers over the four months.
The lifting, however, came with a condition that the customer must have registered for the National Identification Number (NIN) and submit the same at the point of purchase of a new SIM.
According to a statement signed by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, activation of new SIMs and the resumption of other activities earlier banned was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement further stated that the Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami, had presented a Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration to the President on Friday, March 26, 2021.
“The policy includes guidelines on new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/ Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others.
The possession of a national identity number will be a prerequisite for each of these categories. For the corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a telecoms master (at the minimum of an executive management level) to provide the operational Primary NIN representation.
The telecoms master will also be responsible for ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN. “For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point-to-point data services specific to the URL they are working with.
All other services will be barred. In the event that a data-only service is particular to individual use (e.g. home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed