MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9mobile Telcos lose 14 million subscribers in one year

It appears that there's been a purge of the telcos in the past one year.

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Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN and the four major mobile network operators in Nigeria. play

Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN and the four major mobile network operators in Nigeria.

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A recent report released by the Nigerian communications commission shows that phone subscribers took a 10% dip between October 2016 and September 2017.

According to the report, the subscriber base went from over 153 million to about 139 million. It’s the first time in Nigeria’s telco history that subscriber numbers have dipped in a year. The last time the numbers were this low was in 2014.

Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN and the four major mobile network operators in Nigeria. play

Airtel, Etisalat, Glo and MTN and the four major mobile network operators in Nigeria.



Why have the numbers dipped so much?

We reached tried reaching out to the Nigerian Communications Commission, but all efforts have proven futile. The contact number on their website dialled forever. The email bounced, because maybe someone forgot to renew subscriptions.

So we reached spoke to Muqhtar, who has a few years working in the Telco industry as an Analyst, under his belt. He shared some pretty interesting insights that led to this. 

There are a few reasons that has led to this decline;

Remember when SIM card registrations used to be an every-bus-stop thing? Where you’d walk up to a small table and umbrella to register a SIM? That has changed. The NCC issued new directives in December 2016, saying SIM registrations will no longer be done by the roadside and in shops. Only at licensed brick and mortar outlets. 

“This saw the number of new subscribers drop by 30%,” Muqhtar said.  

And so the descent began.

Not only is Nigeria the country with the most mobile phones in the world, we’re also high up on the list of countries with the most dual-sim phones. Many Nigerians, for mostly economic reasons, tend to have multiple sim cards to get the best on price and network reach. 

This leads us to the next blow to the numbers; the SIM swaps and replacement process. 

The NCC now required that all telcos demand valid IDs and other materials from subscribers who wanted their lines swapped.” Muqhtar explained. “A subscriber who lost a SIM had less incentive to want to retrieve that same SIM.” 

The incentive gets even smaller when it’s a second SIM for a multi SIM user. 

More dips. 

“Also, the numbers shared by the NCC reflect only lines that have performed any revenue generating activity in the last 90 days.” 

The could also imply that Nigerians might be slowly gravitating to the single SIM life. 

But could there also be economic factors at work?

Possibly, but not so much. 

“Every year,” Muqhtar continued, “Forecasts are done by telcos around Nigeria’s GDP. These telcos regularly outperform projections.”  It’s important to mention that the growth here is more of an industry aggregate than individual companies. For example, MTN’s revenue fell last year due to the heavy fine from the NCC. But other Telcos gave the industry good cover.

This growth trend points to one thing; Nigerians don’t treat communication as a luxury, we treat is as a need. 

It looks like the housecleaning is over now.

This is what appears to have happened, a kind of sanitation of the subscriber base. A significant amount of the subscribers lost, or SIMs to be specific, appear to be the ones who weren’t contributing so much. 

In July 2017, the descent reached its lowest point, at 139,144, 705. Then it began to climb again, and by September, it climbed slightly to 139,486,832.

The worst days appear to be over.

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