MTN internet subscription declines over NIN-SIM linkage

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

In January, MTN Nigeria experienced a decline in internet subscribers as it worked to adhere to the Nigerian Communications Commission’s directive to link all SIM cards with a National Identity Number.

As the country’s largest telecom operator, MTN witnessed a drop of over 2.8 million subscribers from its internet service, reducing the total to 67.8 million subscribers in January compared to 70.6 million in December. This decline marked the most significant decrease for MTN Nigeria since May 2023.

However, this decline did not impact Airtel and Globacom, as both telcos observed subscriber gains during the same period, according to recent data from the regulator. Airtel recorded the highest increase in subscribers in January, with 890,935 new subscribers, reinforcing its position as the second-largest internet service provider with 45.9 million subscribers. Similarly, Globacom added 192,313 subscribers in January.

The subscriber gains from Airtel and Globacom helped offset the impact of MTN’s decline on the industry. Airtel’s subscriber base grew from 45.0 million to 45.9 million, while Globacom’s increased from 43.9 million to 44.1 million.

In December 2023, the NCC mandated all telecom operators to deregister phone lines without a NIN and those with unverified NINs. MTN Nigeria promptly began compliance upon receiving the directive, alongside running numerous advertorials to inform subscribers about the requirement.

Initially set to expire on March 29, 2024, the NCC extended the deadline for disconnecting unlinked lines to July 31, 2024, as reported by TheCable.

MTN Nigeria has a history of fines from the NCC, including a $5.2 billion fine in 2015 for failure to disconnect customers with unregistered SIM cards.

The decline in MTN Nigeria’s subscriptions contributed to a decrease in overall industry internet figures in January, with the NCC reporting a total of 1.84 million subscribers dropped across all networks, reducing the total to 161.5 million from 163.3 million in December 2023. Additionally, 9Mobile continued its downward trend, losing 94,824 subscribers in January, bringing its total to 3.53 million subscribers.

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