Telcos lose 9.28 million Internet subscribers in one year

A total of 9.28 million telecommunication subscribers stopped using the Internet in 2021, data from the Nigerian Communications Commission have shown.


According to the regulator of the telecoms sector, the number of Internet subscribers fell to 141,617,023 in December 2021 from 150,898,122 in January 2021.


During the year, the total number of Internet subscribers fell to a low of 139,384,180 in July, and the number of Internet subscribers recorded in January remained the highest for the year.

Telcos lose 9.28 million Internet subscribers in one year
Telcos lose 9.28 million Internet subscribers in one year

MTN Nigeria Plc recorded the biggest loss of Internet subscribers (5,176,068) in 2021. The company began 2021 with 63,988,496 subscribers and ended with 58,812,428 subscribers.


Airtel lost 2,507,138 Internet subscribers, as the number of Internet subscribers dropped to 37,526,624 at the end of the year.

9mobile lost 1,127,391 Internet, as the number of its Internet subscribers fell to 5,752,702 at the end of the year.

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Globacom lost 470,502 Internet subscribers, as the number of its Internet subscribers fell to 39,525,269 at the end of the year.

As a result of the decline in the number of Internet subscribers, broadband penetration in the country dropped from 42.93 per cent in January 2021 to 40.88 per cent in December 2021.


In 2021, telecommunication companies blamed the loss of subscribers on the Federal Government’s National Identity Number-Subscriber Identity Module data verification.

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In its half-year report, MTN said, “Mobile subscribers declined by 7.6 million to 68.9 million, impacted by the regulatory restrictions on new SIM sales and activations.”


The company, however, said it was in support of the government’s NIN verification exercise.


In one of its quarterly reports, Airtel said, “New customer acquisitions were barred until significant progress had been made on linking the active customer base with verified NINs.


“Natural churn in the customer base led to a loss of two million active mobile customers in Nigeria in the first quarter of the year (following on from 2.5 million customer loss in the final quarter of the year to 31 March 2021).”

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According to the Nigeria National Coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Internet, Olusola Teniola, as saying, “The impact of the SIM-NIN policy will slow down growth. The NIN requirement will slow down the ability to register SIMs legally, which will affect contribution to NIN because not every Nigerian has NIN.”


Moreover, in September 2021, Nigeria’s broadband penetration dropped below 40 per cent amid the Federal Government’s policy of linking the National Identification Number to SIM cards.


The country’s broadband penetration stood at 39.79 per cent in July, according to new industry statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission. It was 45.02 per cent in December 2020 before the SIM-NIN policy of the government kicked in.


In the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020–2025, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said, “I note with keen interest that this plan is designed to deliver data download speeds of about 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas. It also targets covering at least 90 per cent of the population and penetration rate of 70 per cent by the end of the plan’s lifetime.”


In December 2020, the NCC issued a new directive to all telecommunications companies mandating SIM cards to be linked to NIN. Since then, telcos have lost 16.68 million subscribers.


According to the NCC, last mile connectivity in Nigeria is largely mobile with comparatively lower investments made in fixed lines infrastructure within the past two decades.


It said, “Mobile coverage across Nigeria grew upon the issuance of DML licences to operators that initially deployed 2G technology to provide voice services and effectively covering greater than 89 per cent of Nigeria’s population today.

“Demand for Internet access and availability of spectrum has stimulated the growth in 3G services which covers about 75 per cent of the population.”


The number of mobile Internet subscribers in the country fell to 139.38 million in July 2021 from 153.87 million in December 2020, according to the NCC.


Broadband subscriptions dropped by 9.99 million from 85.94 million in December 2020 to 75.95 million in July 2021.


The Minister, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said recently, “Broadband supports the development of the digital economy, and a focus on growing the national digital economy will also improve and diversify the nation’s traditional economy.”

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