Nigeria’s mobile operators suffer 2.5M subscriber loss in April

By Joseph Ekeng

In a recent report released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), it was revealed that active subscriptions for mobile services in Nigeria experienced a 1% decline, reaching 223.3 million in April 2023. This decline follows a continuous downward trend, with the mobile operators losing approximately 2.5 million subscriptions in the month of April alone. The previous month, they had already witnessed a 0.4% decrease in subscriptions.

The decline in subscription data can be attributed to a significant loss of 2.8 million subscriptions by MTN, the largest operator in terms of subscriber numbers. This decline in active subscriptions can be directly linked to the government’s mandate that all SIM cards be linked with the National Identification Number (NIN). Consequently, MTN subscribers who failed to comply with this requirement had their SIM cards abandoned.

With the drop in active connected lines across the networks of MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile, Nigeria’s teledensity also experienced a decline, falling from 118.48% in March to 117.17% in April. Teledensity measures the number of active telephone connections per 100 inhabitants in a given area. The calculation is based on an estimated population of 190 million, according to the NCC.

Breaking down the performance of individual operators, MTN’s decline of 2.8 million subscriptions weighed heavily on the overall industry database. Consequently, MTN’s total active subscriptions dropped to 88.6 million in April, down from 91.6 million in March 2023.

However, Glo managed to maintain its position as the second-largest operator by subscriber numbers, recording an increase of 128,017 subscriptions in April. This growth brought Glo’s total subscriptions to 60.9 million, slightly up from the 60.7 million recorded in March. Airtel also experienced a marginal increase, with 3,285 new subscriptions added to its database in April, reaching a total of 60.33 million compared to 60.32 million in the previous month.

Surprisingly, 9mobile emerged as the operator with the highest gain in April, as its database grew by 262,737. This increase boosted its total active subscriptions from 13.1 million in March to 13.4 million in April.

It is worth noting that this decline in subscriptions represents the second consecutive decline in over a year. The operators had been recovering from the impact of the 2020 NIN-SIM policy, which resulted in a loss of over 20 million subscriptions across the platforms. Prior to the policy’s introduction in December 2020, mobile subscriptions in Nigeria had been steadily growing.

In November 2020, subscriptions across the networks stood at 207.5 million. However, this figure started to decline in December and reached a low point of 188.9 million in August 2021. Despite this setback, the operators had experienced steady growth in subscriptions over the past 18 months.

As the mobile operators grapple with the ongoing challenges of maintaining active subscriptions and complying with government regulations, it remains to be seen how they will adapt and navigate the evolving landscape of Nigeria’s telecommunications industry.


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