After five months of inactivity due to the suspension of new SIM sales and registration, telecommunications subscribers have resumed number porting in June. According to data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), 616 subscribers ported to another network in the month. Number portability allows mobile subscribers to change their service provider without changing their number.
This means that an MTN subscriber that ports to Airtel continues to use his or her MTN line, but no longer as an MTN subscriber, but Airtel’s. Although the government’s ban on new SIM registration, which took effect from December 9, 2020, was lifted on April 19, 2021, the NCC’s data showed that the subscribers could not resume number porting in April and even May. The last porting activity reported was December 2020. Impacted by the ban, the December porting figure stood at 4,085, a 300 per cent decline from 16,342 recorded in the preceding month. However, the June 2021 record came as the lowest monthly figure of number porting since the initiative was launched in May 2013.
The NCC’s data for June showed that Airtel, which is the second-largest operator in terms of subscriber number, benefitted the most from subscribers porting in the month as 350 subscribers moved to the network from other operators. 9mobile emerged as the second-largest beneficiary of the movement as 191 subscribers ported to its network.
MTN, which controls the largest share of the market also recorded 65 incoming portings during the period under review, while globacom did not attract any customer from other networks. In terms of outgoing porting, 9mobile lost more than it gained as 323 customers ported out of the network. Airtel also lost as 101 subscribers moved out of the network to other networks, while MTN recorded 106 outgoing porting. The monthly figure of porting activities, which reached a peak of 22,539 in July 2015, had been on a steady decline for about three years as mobile users showed less interest in porting.
The mobile network operators (MNOs) had attributed that to improvement in service quality. According to them, the subscribers were showing less interest in porting because they were satisfied with their service providers. However, porting activities began to increase again from 2019. With the increase, industry analysts said the telecoms operators might have faltered in meeting their service quality key performance indicators (KPIs), thus forcing the subscribers to port in search of better alternatives.
While attributing the development partly to poor service quality, NCC had also recently noted that most subscribers equally ported to other networks because they wanted to enjoy cheaper call and data rates on various promos offered by network operators.
The Commission, however, said the consumers would continue to enjoy the right to port from one network to another if they were not satisfied with the quality of service offered by their network operators, which it had given them. “The essence of Mobile Number Portability, which NCC introduced some years ago, offers telecoms subscribers the flexibility to move at will from one network to another, while still retaining their original mobile numbers. They will not be subjected to a particular network if they have reasons to leave the network, and that is the beauty of Mobile Number Portability,” the Commission stated. Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was flagged off by NCC in April 2013 as a way of giving telecommunications subscribers in the country the freedom to move from one network to another for a better experience without changing their number.
It was designed to reduce subscribers’ complaints about the poor quality of service as they would have the opportunity to change operators at will. Besides quality assurance, MNP is also believed to engender tariff reduction as competition gets stiffer.