The telecommunication industry is beginning to shake off the effect of the National Identification Number and Subscriber Identity Module policy as it recovers 16.94 million active subscribers within 11 months, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
The data revealed that active telecom subscribers grew from 187.28 million in June 2021 to 204.22 million in May 2022, which gives a growth of 16.94 million over the period.
Prior to June 2021, the telecoms industry had lost subscribers monthly as a result of the Federal Government’s December 2020 ban on SIM acquisition and related activities.
Before the government banned SIM-related activities in 2020, the number of active telecom subscribers had peaked at 207.58 million in October of the year and was 204.15 million when the ban kicked in December.
After the ban, the number of active subscribers in the nation started witnessing a steady decline from 204.15 million in December 2020 to 187.28 million in June 2021. It began witnessing growth from June 2021 to reach 204.22 million in May 2022.
During the ban, telecom experts said it was affecting their business while many Nigerians lamented how they were stranded since they couldn’t retrieve their lines when it was lost, damaged, or stolen.
The Federal Government later lifted the ban on new SIM card registrations in April 2021. According to the NCC, active subscribers decreased from 204.60 million subscribers in 2020 to 195.46 million active subscribers in December 2021. In its 2021 industry statistics document, the commission attributed the reduction in subscribers to the SIM ban of the government.
It said, “The decrease in Operators’ subscriber base was attributed majorly to the effect of the directive from NCC in December 2020 to all GSM Operators to suspend the sale and registration of new SIMs, SIM swaps and all porting activities.
“The objective of the audit exercise was to verify and ensure compliance by Mobile Network Operators with the set quality standards and requirements of SIM Card Registration as issued by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Commission.”
Experts have attributed the sustained subscriber growth in the industry to an increase in data usage by Nigerians.
The Chief Operating Officer, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Ajibola Olude, said, “There are many factors responsible for this. One is the continuous adoption and utilisation of telecom services.
“In some secondary and primary schools today, they deliver education services via telecom platforms. There is also the emergence of Internet of Things in the nation. Smart homes need SIMS for every gadget in them, which is also contributing to the growth in the subscriber base.
“Then, we are in an election period which has increased the influx of people into the nation because of political reasons. The influx of foreigners is also responsible for this.”
The President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, added, “I am sure the growth is because of data use. If we do the analysis well, we would notice there has been increased Internet access leading to increased data usage.
“This is because many businesses are now online and, fortunately, the SIM-NIN thing does not affect your data processes. So that is continuously on the growth side, but voice calls have been on a decline because about 70 million subscribers can still not make calls.
“The growth in subscriber base is because many Nigerians are now exploring getting their traders online. Also, a lot of traders now use Instagram and WhatsApp. The latter is easy to use, especially when product and service display is discussed.”
According to the NCC, data usage increased by 68.22 per cent from 209,917.40TB in 2020 to 353,118.89TB in 2021.