According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), active subscriptions for mobile services in Nigeria experienced a 1% decline, totalling 220.9 million in May 2023. This marks the third consecutive month of loss for mobile operators in the country.
In April, there was a 1% decline in subscriptions, followed by a 0.4% decline in March. As of April, the active subscriptions across MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile networks amounted to 223.3 million, indicating a decrease of 2.4 million subscriptions in May.
An analysis of the operators’ data revealed that the decline in subscription numbers was primarily driven by a loss of 3 million subscriptions by MTN. This reduction can be attributed to the abandonment of SIM cards that were not linked to the National Identification Number (NIN) as mandated by the government.
As a result of the decline in active connections by the operators, the country’s tele density, which measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants, dropped to 115.91% in May, down from 117.17% recorded in April. The tele density is calculated based on a population estimate of 190 million.
MTN, the largest operator in terms of subscriber number, contributed significantly to the overall decline in the industry’s database with a 3 million decrease in subscriptions. This brought their total active subscriptions to 85.6 million, compared to 88.6 million in April 2023.
On the other hand, Glo experienced a slight increase of 225,714 subscriptions in May, enabling them to maintain their position as the second-largest operator by subscriber number. This increase brought Glo”s total subscriptions to 62 million from 60.9 million in April. Airtel also saw a modest rise of 195,923 subscriptions, resulting in a total of 60.5 million subscriptions in May compared to 60.3 million in April.
9mobile recorded the highest gain in May, with its database growing by 257,320 subscriptions. This brought their total active subscriptions to 13.7 million, up from 13.4 million in April . The decline in active mobile subscriptions coincides with a recent directive from the NCC to telecom operators, instructing them to deactivate any line that has remained unused for revenue-generating activities for 6 months.
The NCC’s Quality of Service Business Rules, which contain this directive, also state that the owners of inactive lines have an additional 6 months to reactivate their lines, failing which the lines will be permanently deactivated. The NCC’s decision to enforce this directive may be a response to the rising number of inactive lines across mobile networks.
According to NCC’s subscriber data, the number of unused or abandoned lines across MTN, Airtel, Glo, and 9mobile networks increased to 96.7 million in February of this year. In comparison, the total number of connected lines among the four operators stood at 323.6 million, with 226.8 million being active lines at the end of the month.