The number of unused or abandoned lines across the networks of MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile declined by 13% in 2022, showing that more Nigerians used their lines in the year.
According to the latest subscriber data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), inactive lines on mobile networks stood at 94.4 million as of December 2022, down from 109 million recorded at the end of 2021.
The NCC data revealed that the four mobile network operators had a total of N316.6 million connected lines as of December 2022. However, active lines across the networks at the end of the month stood at 2222.2 million. This shows that the telecom operators were able to generate revenue from 70% of their customers in the period under review.
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.
Impacted by government policy: Many Nigerians have had to abandon their mobile lines in 2021 as a result of the government’s policy that mandated every user of SIM-enabled devices to link their National Identification Number or be barred. While the deadline for the exercise was shifted several times from December 2020 until April 2022, millions of lines were affected as the government ordered the telcos to block unlinked lines.
In its 9-month financial results for the period ended December 2022, Airtel, for instance, reported that 13.6 million of its customers were barred due to non-submission of NIN information by the deadline of April 2022.
- “As of December 2022, 6.2 million customers (46%) have subsequently submitted their NINs and 3.2 million customers (23%) have been fully verified and unbarred. Revenue growth for the first nine months of the year was impacted by the effect of barring outgoing voice calls in Nigeria for those customers who had not submitted their NINs. We estimate that this resulted in the loss of approximately $87 million of revenues in the nine months,” the company stated.
Also providing an update in its financial report for the year ended December 2022, MTN said 19 million of its subscribers did not link their lines as of April 2022 and were barred from making calls. 19 million of our affected subscribers at the time.
- “As a result, in Q3, we recorded higher churn from affected subscribers who stopped activity after the initial restriction, some of whom opted to obtain new SIMs. Therefore, we continued to ramp up gross connections and roll out NIN recovery offers to mitigate the impact of churn,” the company said.
For the records: Aside from the NIN issue, industry analysts had also attributed the increasing number of inactive lines 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 cheap or free in some instances.
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.
However, with the requirement of having to link NIN before a SIM can be activated, people no longer acquire SIMs for the fun of it but only when the need arises. This is contributing to the decline in the number of inactive lines on the networks.
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