MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile recorded an increase in the number of abandoned lines to 96.7 million in February.
Revenue-generating SIMs for the operators as of February stood at 70%
The rising inactive lines may further impact the telecom operators’ Q1 2023 revenue.
Unused or abandoned lines across the networks of MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile increased to 96.7 million in February 2023. This was revealed in the latest subscriber data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The NCC data revealed that the four mobile network operators had a total of N323.6 million connected lines as of February this year. However, active lines across the networks at the end of the month stood at 226.8 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.
Low revenue expected for operators in Q1
As of December 2022, inactive lines across mobile networks stood at 94.4 million. The figure increased to 95.2 million in January and rose further to 96.7 million in February.
The increase in inactive lines may further affect the Q1 revenue for mobile network operators who had already been projected to miss their revenue target as a result of the recent cash crunch in the economy.
Reliable sources in Nigerian GSM Companies had recently informed Nairametrics that for the first time, they were behind revenue targets by as much as double digits and fear they might end up with a year-on-year drop in revenues. According to them, the inability of Nigerians to readily access cash meant they had to rely on their mobile phones to carry out online banking transactions. Unfortunately, this piled pressure on network infrastructure leading to several pinpoint network failures for the telcos.
The impact inadvertently weighed in on the ability of telco customers to purchase airtime which they use for talk time or data. Nigerians who relied on USSD to purchase airtime also faced several network downtimes that are likely to impact negatively sales. Sources suggest these challenges are likely to weigh down on revenue growth at the end of Q1 with fear that it could even be worse than expected.
Why abandoned lines are increasing
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.
As of now, many of the blocked lines have not been reactivated as some subscribers would rather buy new lines than go through the process of reactivating their old lines, thus adding to the pool of inactive lines.
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 totally free in some instances.
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