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SIM registration policy rattles Nigeria’s telecommunications

Nigeria , 22 Mar 2021

Nigeria’s telecommunications market has been hard hit by the decision by government in December 2020 to suspend the sale and registration of new SIM cards, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The SIM/NIN registration policy directed subscribers of telecommunications services to obtain a National Identification Number (NIN) and integrate this with their SIM registration details.

Three months into the policy, traders are becoming increasingly worried.

The founder of a new startup in Abuja told ITWeb Africa he had to pay NGN10,000 "to get into a line" that would process the cards for the company, because the legal way to do this was unavailable.

“When I visited an MTN office here in Abuja, they told me there is no SIM sale or registration but one of their staff actually pointed me to a guy standing by who told me I could get an active and registered SIM immediately if I was willing to pay. I did that and I got it instantly,” he told ITWeb Africa.

Market research to date shows that teledensity has decreased from its highest peak of 108.92% at the end of November 2020 and a drop in the number of mobile subscriptions from nearly 208 million to 200.2 million.

Additionally, Nigeria’s active internet subscriptions have dropped from nearly 155 million at the end of November 2020 to about 151.2 million at the end of January 2021.

This represents a loss of 3.6 million active internet subscriptions within two months - after over a year of steady growth in active internet subscriptions.

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) also suffered a similar fate with active subscriptions dropping from 429,121 to 387,169 within the same period.

Furthermore, between November and December 2020 broadband penetration decreased marginally from 45.07% to 45.02%. However, between December 2020 and January 2021 Nigeria experienced a major decrease in broadband penetration when it fell to 42.93% after the number of broadband subscriptions dropped from nearly 86 million to less than 82 million.

Fixed wired active internet subscriptions in Nigeria continued with steady month-on-month growth from 9,866 at the end of February 2020 to 11,545 at the end of January 2021.

While industry insiders hope authorities will soon allow telcos and their merchants to sell and register new SIM cards, experts warned that impact on Africa’s biggest telecommunications market will be felt for some time to come.

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