Consistent Drop in Telecoms’ Subscriber Number Worry NCC, Stakeholders

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Emma Okonji

Telecoms subscribers number has continued to drop consistently from 155 million in January this year, to 143 million as at the end of June this year, according to the recent statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

The NCC however said that the consistent drop is worrisome, even though the reasons for the drop are obvious.

According to figures obtained from NCC’s website, subscriber number had in January this year, reached a high peak of 155 million active subscribers across all networks, but the figures began to drop consistently from 155 million in January, to 143 million in June this year.

The consistent drop in subscriber number also reflected in the drop in subscriber teledensity from 110.8 per cent in January, to 102.19 per cent in June this year.

Teledensity in technical parlance is the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants living in a particular area, and expressed in percentage.

Reacting to the drop, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders’ Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare, attributed it to shunning, consolidation and recession.

According to him, most subscribers shun making calls for a long period of time, and by the time it reaches 90 days, the SIM card is automatically deactivated. He also explained that consolidation has forced most subscribers with multiple lines to drop some lines and stick to one line, since they can do data and voice from a single line across other networks. Economic recession, he added, also forced subscribers to cut down on their spending culture on recharge cards, and devised other means of communication through the social media platform like WhatsApp and Skype, which are free and driven by over the top technology (OTT).

A breakdown of the figure as at June this year, showed that MTN still maintained the lead in the total number of subscribers across networks, with 53.1 million active subscribers on its network, followed by Globacom with 37.4 million subscribers on its network, and next is Airtel with 34.1 million subscribers on its network and 9mobile with 18.2 million subscribers.

The drop in subscriber number, cuts across all networks, as MTN had as at last year, recorded over 61 million subscribers on its network, before dropping to 53.1 million in June this year, while 9mobile had crossed the 20million mark subscriber number as at last year, before dropping to 18.2 million in June this year. Likewise, Globacom and Airtel also dropped in subscriber number, bringing the total number of subscribers on their networks to 37.4 million and 34.1 million respectively.

Based on the drop in subscriber number across networks, which also affected their market shares, the NCC therefore put the current market share of MTN as at June this year, at 37.21 per cent, Globacom market share at 26.22 per cent, Airtel market share at 23.92 per cent, and 9mobile market share at 12.63 per cent. NCC was however silent on ntel, which transformed from NITEL, the former government owned parastatal that was launched as the fifth GSM operator in the country, over a year ago.

The NCC figure also captured the active data subscription in the country, which according to it, has reached 99.7 per cent for mobile GSM, 0.14 per cent for mobile CDMA, 0.09 per cent for fixed wireless and wired network, and 0.03 per cent for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Worried about the consistent drop in subscriber number and subscriber teledensity across networks, industry stakeholders have called on the NCC to move fast to address the challenges in order nip it in the bud. It is feared that the number may continue to drop if appropriate steps are not taken to address the issue. They listed some of the possible reasons for the drop to include poor service quality occasioned by the slow pace in network expansion, low broadband penetration that will boost voice and data connectivity, drop in the purchasing power of subscribers, among others.