Telcos lose 3m internet subscriptions in one month

Telecommunications operators in the country suffered a huge loss in January as internet subscriptions across the networks declined by three million. The decline is attributable to the current suspension of new SIM activation by the government, which also hinders the replacement of lost or damaged SIMs. According to the latest industry data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the number of internet subscriptions across the mobile networks, fixed wired and VoIP, stood at 151.2 million in January, a decline from 154.3 million recorded in December 2020. In December, the operators had also lost 563,837 internet subscriptions.

The declining subscriptions, analysts said, would hurt the operators’ income as data has become a major revenue earner for the service providers. With lots of investments being pumped into building 4G networks across the country, the operators are also likely to slow down as the government remains unyielding in lifting the ban placed on new SIM registration. According to the government, the suspension, which took effect on December 9, 2020, is to allow a proper audit of the SIM registration database with a view to ensuring that all mobile lines in the country are properly registered. However, many subscribers whose SIMs had issues, lost or stolen have been unable to get a replacement.

Some organisations and individuals that bought Internet modems the same week the suspension took effect have been unable to activate it. According to the NCC’s data, all the operators recorded a decline in their internet subscription database. MTN, which is the largest operator by the number of subscriptions also recorded the biggest loss in the month as its internet database declined by 1.3 million.

This brought its total subscriptions to 63.9 million from 65.4 million it recorded in December. Airtel lost 1.2 million internet subscriptions in the month under review as its database declined from 41.2 million to 40 million in January. Globacom’s internet subscriptions declined by 110,888 to 39.9 million, while 9mobile shed 239,995 to have 6.8 million subscriptions at the end of January. Meanwhile, an advocacy group in the telecom sector has urged the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, to review the current ban on new registration or replacement of SIM cards.

The Digital Economy Media Support Volunteers Network (DEMS Volunteers Network), a non-governmental group of media practitioners, said that the continued suspension of SIM registration, and/or renewal, had led to untold hardship on the part of individuals, Small and Medium Enterprises, (SMEs) whose means of livelihood are dependent on digital/online transactions.

The Ag. Director-General of DEMS Volunteers, Prince Stan Okenwa, in a statement, said his organisation recognised the genuine interest of the minister to verify and ensure compliance by MNOs, with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM card registration, as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission. He, however, noted that with the successes recorded with regards to the National Identification Number, (NIN) and SIM card integration, the minister should consider reviewing the suspension, to give room for those with NIN to register new lines or reactivate their lost SIM cards.

“What we are suggesting is that the Minister issues a new directive for those with ‘credible means of identifications’, especially, NIN, to be able to register new SIM cards, or renew their old one and continue their businesses.

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