Mobile telecommunications services providers in Nigeria may have lost an estimated revenue of N37.17 billion from the mandatory National Identity Number (NIN) – Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) records linkage.
This is because 20.84 million mobile phone lines in the country have become disconnected between November last year and May 2021 and telecoms operators are unable to sell airtime to them in the past six months.
It was gathered that the phone lines were disconnected due to inability of subscribers to retrieve lost SIM cards, improper SIM registration and long period of disuse of SIM cards by subscribers.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Patanmi, had in December 2021 made it mandatory for all Nigerians and foreigners with resident permits to obtain a National Identity Number (NIN) and submit to their telecom service provider for linking with their phone numbers.
The telcos were also instructed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately suspend the sale and activation of new SIM cards to allow another audit of the Subscriber Registration Database.
The sale of SIM cards and retrieval of lost SIMs were put on hold till April this year.
Pantami had in December also threatened to block all SIM cards that were not registered with valid NIN within two weeks. However, the deadline for the exercise has been extended for more them three times with the latest deadline being July 26, 2021.
Industry data obtained from the NCC showed that as of November 2020, there were 207.53 million active GSM phone numbers which declined to 186.69 million in May 2021, represented 10 per cent decline in active subscribers.
Before the ongoing NIN-SIM linkage exercise, the telecom operators had been directed to disconnect any line found to have been improperly registered from their networks.
NCC’s guidelines also permit the telecommunications companies to disconnect and reassign SIM cards once they are inactive for a maximum of 180 days.
The N37.17 billion airtime earnings is based on the multiplication of an estimate of the number of inactive subscribers in the industry between November 2020 and May 2021, and a projected Average Revenue Per User for voice and data services provided by analysts in the telecommunication industry.
Sales of airtime remain the core revenue earner for telcos and generate income for operators via voice calls, SMS, data subscriptions and other value-added services.
A breakdown of subscribers’ data from NCC indicated that as of May, MTN had 74.04 million subscribers, Globacom had 49.78 million users, Airtel had 50.03 million subscribers while 9mobile had 12.84 million users.
This meant subscribers whose mobile numbers had become inactive could have spent about $90.65 million (N37.17 billion) on airtime purchase during the period, using N410.17 to one dollar exchange rate.
Nigerians purchase airtime through various platforms such as physical recharge cards, the virtual top-up via USSD code, subscribers’ bank accounts domiciled on mobile devices, vending on web-based platforms and on Automated Teller Machines.
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