Mobile Industry Sees Decline in Subscriptions, MTN’s Database Shrinks by 3 Million

Nigeria’s leading mobile operator, MTN, experienced a significant decline in its subscriber base, resulting in a 3 million decrease in the total industry database. This brought MTN’s active subscriptions down to 85.6 million from the 88.6 million recorded in April 2023.

According to the latest data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s active subscriptions for mobile services experienced a 1% decline, totaling 220.9 million in May 2023. This marks the third consecutive month of losses for mobile operators, with a 1% decline in April and a 0.4% decline in March.

In April, the combined active subscriptions of MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile stood at 223.3 million. A closer look at the data reveals that MTN’s decline of 3 million subscriptions contributed to the overall drop. This reduction can be attributed to the abandonment of SIM cards that have not been linked with the National Identification Number (NIN) as mandated by the government.

In contrast, Glo experienced a slight increase of 225,714 subscriptions during the month, solidifying its position as the second-largest operator by subscriber numbers in May 2023. Airtel also recorded a rise of 195,923 subscriptions, bringing its total to 60.5 million from 60.3 million in April. Meanwhile, 9mobile saw the highest gain, with its database growing by 257,320 subscriptions, resulting in a total of 13.7 million active subscriptions.

The decline in active mobile subscriptions aligns with the recent directive issued by the NCC, requiring telecom operators to deactivate lines that have remained inactive for six months without generating revenue. The telecom regulator’s new Quality of Service Business Rules state that the owners of such lines will have an additional six months to reactivate them; otherwise, they will lose the lines permanently.

This directive from the NCC may be linked to the increasing number of inactive lines across mobile networks. NCC’s subscriber data reveals that the number of unused or abandoned lines across MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile increased to 96.7 million as of February this year. While these networks collectively had 323.6 million connected lines, the number of active lines at the end of the month stood at 226.8 million.

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