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  • Updated: February 19, 2024

Telecom sector struggles as active subscriber numbers decline in Nigeria

Telecom sector struggles as active subscriber numbers declin

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has revealed a concerning trend in the country's telecom sector as the number of active telecom lines continues to dwindle, according to data released by the regulator.

In a document titled "Subscriber/Teledensity Data January 2023–December 2023," the NCC reported a decline in active subscribers throughout the year.

The peak was observed in February, with 227,179,946 active subscribers, while the lowest point was in June, with only 220,086,951. The year commenced with 226,226,754 subscribers and concluded in December with a further decrease to 224,713,710.

The decline, totalling 2,466,236 subscribers by the year's end, indicates a significant loss in revenue for mobile network operators (MNOs).

The downward trend persisted through the months, with March experiencing a dip to 226,161,713 subscribers and hitting 220,086,951 by June, the lowest point recorded.

Industry analysts attribute this decline to various factors, including the ongoing subscriber identity module (SIM) and National Identity Number (NIN) linkage process, which might have contributed to customers abandoning multiple SIM cards.

Additionally, economic challenges, including inflation, have diminished the disposable income of subscribers, prompting cost-cutting measures such as reducing the number of active lines.

Furthermore, the phenomenon of mass emigration, colloquially referred to as the 'Japa' pandemic, has seen millions of Nigerians relocating abroad in search of better opportunities, resulting in a loss of subscribers for local telecom operators.

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) reported that over 3.6 million Nigerians migrated to other countries within two years, indicating a significant demographic shift that could further impact subscriber numbers.

While active telecom lines decline, there is a contrasting rise in internet subscriptions, indicating a shift in consumer behaviour towards digital services. Internet subscriptions increased steadily throughout the year, reaching 163,838,439 in December from 156,244,368 in January.

As the telecom sector grapples with these challenges, stakeholders, including the Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), have emphasised the need for a conducive operating environment and strategic measures to address the decline in active subscribers and ensure the industry's sustainability amidst evolving market dynamics.

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