A total of 98.8 million mobile lines connected to the networks of MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile have become inactive as of July 2022, data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has revealed. As of April, this year, the number of inactive lines across the networks stood at 94 million, indicating that over 4 million lines have been abandoned between May and July.
A mobile line is considered to be inactive if it is not used by the subscriber to make or receive calls and/or access data services for 90 days, at the minimum. Such lines are separated from active lines as they generate no revenue for telecom operators within the stated period.
Although there has always been a record of inactive lines for years now, the number continues to increase since the beginning of the mandatory linking of National Identification Number (NIN) with SIMs and the government’s directive to bar unlinked lines effective from April.
According to the latest subscriber data released by NCC, the four mobile network operators had a total of N307.3 million connected lines as of July. However, active lines across the networks at the end of the month stood at 208.6 million.
This means that the telecom operators were able to generate revenue from 68% of their connected lines in the month.
Telecos’ Q3 revenue to be impacted
From the Q2 financial results of MTN and Airtel, there were clear indications that the rising inactive lines are eating deep into the telcos’ revenue. Airtel disclosed that a total of 8.3 million of its customers were yet to submit their NINs as of June 30 this year. This, the telco said, resulted “in a loss of approximately $34m revenue in the quarter and a corresponding impact of 7.5 percentage points on the growth rate.”
MTN said it is also anticipating a churn in the number of its active subscribers for the Q3 as many of its subscribers were yet to link their SIMs, thus remaining barred. The telco also observed that rather than linking their old SIMs, some subscribers were going for new SIMs.
Giving an outlook of the company’s performance for Q3 2022, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola said: “We anticipate an increase in ‘technical’ churn in Q3 from affected subscribers who stopped activity after the initial restriction, opting instead to obtain new SIMs rather than reactivate their old lines. As we continue to engage our affected subscribers, drive NIN enrolment for subscribers who do not yet have a NIN (with over 8,300 points of enrolment across the country), and support NIMC in addressing capacity challenges, we believe that mitigating actions will recover the base in line with our broad expectations for FY 2022.”
What you should know
- While the telecom operators have always had inactive lines alongside the increase in active users and new activations, the ban on new SIM registration and the inability of many subscribers to retrieve their lines between December 9, 2020, and April 19, 2021, worsened the situation as abandoned lines continued to pile up each month.
- Industry analysts have also attributed the increasing number of inactive lines, which predated the recent ban, to the fact that SIM cards are now easy to acquire and dump. According to them, the MNOs were also contributing to the increase through their aggressive marketing strategy of offering SIMs to customers for free.
- At the beginning of the telecoms revolution in 2001, a SIM was sold for as high as N60, 000. However, the stiff competition among the telecom operators for the subscribers has pushed many of them to be offering their SIMs for free, laced with promises of free credit and data upon activation.
- But with the recent policy that subscribers are to present their National Identification Number (NIN) before buying a new SIM, industry analysts said the situation would improve for the better as people would now buy SIMs only when it is necessary and not just because an operator is running a promo.
- Also, in a new number management policy recently introduced by NCC, the telecoms regulator has said that subscribers whose lines have been inactive for 12 months would forfeit them. “Subscriber numbers that have not generated revenue by originating calls will automatically be recovered after 12 consecutive months,” the Commission stated in the new policy document.
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