Unregistered Nigerian Telecoms Subscribers Are Being Disconnected
Nigeria has held the record for being the fastest growing mobile market in the world for five consecutive years; Nigerian telecoms, more than many elsewhere in the world, has recorded the highest return on investment; it has generated more jobs, steady jobs, and millions of ancillary jobs than any sector in the local economy. The industry has grown to being a major contributor to the country’s GDP. It has blossomed to well over $32 billion industry from a trifling $50 million in the year 2000.
Latest data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) released on its website this week shows that the country’s leading telecom operator, MTN, lost more than six million internet subscribers in five months. MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest wireless operator, cut its full-year forecast for subscriber numbers after more than 5 million Nigerian customers were disconnected following a review into how they were able to register for phone contracts. According the MTN the regulators withheld services and forced the company to cut off 5.1 million customers. The company is locked in discussions with the government over a proposed $3.9 billion fine imposed after the wireless operator missed a deadline to disconnect the unregistered subscribers. This regulatory intervention is due to security measures to fight crime. The security agencies in Nigeria, battling insurgents from Islamist group Boko Haram, have asked to cut off service to unregistered users because identities can’t be tracked.
Though the data shows that internet users on Nigeria’s telecom networks reduced generally to 93.6 million as at February 2016 compared to 97 million in December 2015, MTN seems to be the most affected telco among the existing four.
Recent statistics show the telco’s number of internet users has declined from October 2015 till February 2016, when the most recent data is available. The highest recorded loss so far for MTN was in the month of February when it lost 2.61 million internet subscribers.
Though still the market leader with over 35 million subscribers in the internet subscriber data (GSM) market, MTN has lost a total of 6.23 million subscribers in the five months under review. Airtel and Etisalat have risen and fallen in the said period, Glo had added more subscribers.
The trigger was ntel and its newly inaugurated 4G/LTE-Advanced network, MTN – as well as the other telcos – would have to adopt a new strategy to stem the dwindling subscriber base in this segment of the market. ntel, Nigeria’s fifth mobile network operator, claims to have the fastest high-speed Internet access available.
ntel’s data plans are more expensive than the competition but its 4G network is said to offer speed access of up to 230 Mbps and the company says this provides data to suit the needs of those who heavy users. ntel’s 4G LTE is currently available in Abuja and Lagos and, according to its CEO, Kumar Abass, will be available in other states in Nigeria by May and through the second half of the year.
Abass had earlier predicted that the Nigerian telecoms market would be dominated by data and broadband offerings by 2020, based on the increasing demand for data and mobile broadband services in the country and the global shift from voice to data communication.