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Mobile subscriptions shrink by three million

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Nigeria’s mobile subscriptions shrank by 3.49 million mobile subscriptions in the last three months, leaving a dent in the country’s march toward mobile inclusion for all.

Since mobile subscriptions hit an all-time high of 226.84 million in February of this year, it has been on a steady decline.

It first fell to 225.82 million in March, before slumping further to 223.34 million, according to new industry data from the Nigerian Communications Commission. This is also the first time since June 2021 that mobile subscriptions have fallen consistently.

In 2020 and 2021, a Federal Government policy to link SIMs to National Identification Numbers affected the mobile industry and caused a steep decline in mobile subscriptions. Since then, subscriptions have improved, and risen to record highs.

MTN Nigeria is the only telecommunication firm to have lost mobile subscriptions in the period under review, losing 4.03 million (from 92.71 million to 88.68 million), while retaining its spot as the largest mobile network operator in the country.

Other telcos had better fortunes, with Globacom marginally growing by 172,867 from 60.76 million to 60.93 million; Airtel added 31,705 new subscriptions and grew from 60.30 million to 60.33 million; and 9mobile witnessed the largest growth, adding 330,003 new subscriptions to hit 13.40 million from 13.07 million in the period under review.

Within the three months, teledensity (the number of active telephone connections per one hundred (100) inhabitants living within an area) fell to 117.17 per cent in April from 119.01 per cent in February.

In MTN’s first quarter report, MTN Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer, Karl Toriola, noted that global macroeconomic factors, inflation, and cash shortages, among others, were affecting its consumers.

He said, “We continued to experience headwinds in our operating environment in the first quarter of 2023. The impacts of the ongoing global macroeconomic and geopolitical developments on energy, food, and general inflation were exacerbated locally by petrol and cash shortages experienced during the period. This placed additional pressure on economic activity, consumers, and businesses.”

Nigeria’s mobile population is the largest in Africa and the prior steady growth in the number of mobile subscriptions had been attributed to increased productivity and efficiency in other sectors

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