New Telegraph

Telcos gain as inactive mobile lines drop to 86m

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The decrease in the number of abandoned mobile lines raises hope of more revenue for network operators



From over 90 million in May, number of inactive lines across the mobile networks of MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile decreased to 86 million in July, New Telegraph has learnt.


This amounts to gains for the operators as over four million lines abandoned by their customers are now in active use. A mobile line is said to be inactive if it is not used by the subscriber to make or receive calls and/or access data services for 90 days, at the minimum.


Such lines are separated from active lines as they generate no revenue for telecom operators within the stated period. According to the latest statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards so far sold and connected by the MNOs had hit 285.3 million as of July this year.

However, the number of active lines as of the same month stood at 198.9 million. Until May this year, the number of inactive lines had been on a steady increase.


The trend, however, started changing in May when the number reduced from 95.5 million in April to 94.6 million. In June, the number of inactive lines further declined to 89 million as the number of active lines rose. At the beginning of the telecoms revolution in 2001, a SIM was sold for as high as N60, 000.


However, the stiff competition among the telecom operators for the subscribers has pushed many of them to be offering their SIMs for free, laced with promises of free credit and data upon activation.


This paper’s investigations revealed that most of the subscribers often go for the new lines to enjoy the freebies only to discard the lines once the gift period is over. Industry analysts had attributed the increase in number of inactive lines to the fact that SIM cards are now easy to acquire and dump.


According to them, the MNOs were also contributing to the increase through their aggressive marketing strategy of offering SIMs to customers for free. However, the President of  Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, noted that the situation was still normal since the active lines for the GSM operators are more than the inactive lines.


According to him, the loyalty of prepaid customers to their networks is minimal, hence, it is easy for them to drop a line and go for another one.


“With increasing migration of prepaid subscribers, from a usage basis, this means that there is far less loyalty to remain with an operator and  easy for expats and mobile road warriors to dispense with SIM cards and return to obtain another SIM card when they return to Nigeria.


“So it is still okay that the number of active SIM cards exceeds the number of inactive SIM cards. If it happens otherwise, it signifies saturation or heavy churn due to alternative offerings over Wi-Fi or other non-SIM-based devices.” Meanwhile, with the new number management policy recently introduced by NCC, subscribers, whose lines have been inactive for 12 months, would forfeit them. In a recently released numbering plan regulation, NCC said it would henceforth withdraw inactive lines after 12 months.


“Subscriber numbers that have not generated revenue by originating calls will automatically be recovered after 12 consecutive months,” part of the new numbering plan read. In the new plan, NCC said it would conduct a regular audit to ascertain the level of utilization of numbers assigned to operators.


“The numbers issued will be categorised as follows: Assigned i.e. total number assigned by the regulator including operator codes; Quantity of numbers already assigned and sold to subscribers (SIM cards); Quantity of numbers in trade channels i.e. numbers with assigned SIM cards but not yet sold; Revenue generating subscribers during the preceding 90 days before the reporting period; and Quantity of numbers in quarantine,” the commission said.

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