Telcos Lose 5.8m Voice Subscribers, Gain 41.5% Data Usage in Q1


By Emma Okonji

A recent report from the study carried out by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, showed a sharp decline in the number of active voice subscribers across the four major telecoms operators (Telcos) in the first quarter of 2017. 

The Active Voice Subscription (AVS) dropped marginally from 155.1 million to 149.3 million in the first quarter of 2017, thus accumulating to 5.8 million losses in the number of voice subscribers across networks.

The study, however, revealed an increase in data internet usage subscriptions in the same first quarter in 2017, measured in terabyte, even though the country witnessed a marginal drop in the number of internet subscribers from 91.5 million to about 90 million in the same quarter. 

According to an insider source at NCC, the commission commenced the cumulative collection of internet usage statistics of all mobile operators in February, 2017 to further understand the performance and behaviour of the active mobile internet segment, and came up with the findings. 

According to the findings of the NCC study that was carried out on all the four major GSM providers, the operators recorded losses in active voice service, and at the same time, recorded gains in data internet usage.

The study revealed that MTN lost over 2.2 million voice subscribers; Etisalat lost over 1.412 million voice subscribers on its network; Airtel lost 319,803 and Globacom lost 58,277 voice subscribers.

The study is however silent on ntel, who joined as the fifth entrant into the GSM space about a year ago.

The report further showed that between December 2016 and March 2017, the operators maintained a steady decline of an average 2.64 per cent voice subscription loss, but made significant gains in data usage.

From the data analysis, the operators recorded 22,019.6 terabyte in February; 30,627.40 terabyte in March and 31,160.00 terabyte in April, reflecting a 41.5 per cent usage increase between February and April, 2017. 

According to the insider source, the trend would likely continue as more operators are licensed in the broadband segment to provide wholesale broadband internet services nationwide.

Besides, the network operators have intensified efforts to improve on their network coverage.

Giving reasons for the increase in data internet usage, the study indicated that improved national network coverage by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and migration of various networks from 3G to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), may have accounted for the rise in Active Mobile Internet Subscriptions (AMI).

The NCC study also showed that a range of reasons were responsible for the decline in voice subscription number. 

Part of the reason is their churning activities and the commission’s directive to deactivate all unregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards that exist in all the networks.

The findings also showed that during festive period like Christmas, a lot of people especially those who relocate from urban centres to the semi-urban and rural areas, drop their SIM cards after the festivals.

The NCC study also indicated that as nationwide coverage increases, many subscribers did not see the need to have multiple SIM cards and therefore elected to drop their second line and kept one. It predicted that the trend may continue especially due to the dramatic increase in data usage.

Meanwhile, other reasons given by operators for the sharp drop, are that consumer spending behaviourial pattern of possessing dual SIM devices may have changed as a result of economic recession and the directive handed the operators by NCC that they should implement/deactivate auto renewal of data plan/bundle services.

Already, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has identified that there is a strong link between disposal income and affordability of internet services.

“The recent releases of the Consumer Price Index report by the National Bureau of Statistics, indicates inflationary costs are more on the basic household needs. Hence, cost of communications/telecoms services will naturally compete with basic household needs and consumers’ spending behaviourial pattern,” the report noted.