MTN Nigeria’s internet subscribers dropped in January due to efforts to comply with the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) mandate to link all SIM cards with a National Identity Number (NIN). 

MTN, the largest telecom operator in the country, saw over 2.8 million subscribers drop from its internet business leaving 67.8 million subscribers in January from 70.6 million subscribers in December. The decline was the most MTN Nigeria has seen since May 2023. 

The drop, however, didn’t affect Airtel and Globacom as both telcos gained subscribers in the same month, according to the latest data from the regulator. Airtel gained the most subscribers in January with 890,935 subscribers joining the network and helping to solidify its position as the second-largest internet service provider with 45.9 million subscribers. Globacom also gained 192,313 subscribers in January. 

Subscriber gains from Airtel and Globacom helped to reduce the impact of MTN’s subscriber decline on the industry. Airtel grew its subscriber base from 45.0 million subscribers to 45.9 million subscribers. Globacom also grew its subscriber base from 43.9 million subscribers to 44.1 million subscribers. 

In December 2023, the NCC directed all the telecom operators in the country to deregister all phone lines without a NIN and those with unverified NINs. A spokesperson for MTN Nigeria told TechCabal that the operator started compliance almost immediately after the directive was issued. The company also made several advertorials regarding the directive which led many subscribers to take steps to update or register their NIN.

The deadline was supposed to have expired on March 29, 2024, however, the NCC has now extended the deadline for the disconnection of unlinked lines to July 31, 2024, per TheCable

The telecom operator has had a history of fines with the NCC which it is still trying to put behind it. In 2015, the company was fined $5.2 billion for failing to disconnect customers with unregistered SIM cards. 

MTN Nigeria’s subscription decline dented the overall industry internet figures in January. According to the NCC, the total number of subscribers that dropped off across all networks was 1.84 million leaving operators with 161.5 million subscribers from 163.3 million in December 2023. Aside from MTN Nigeria, 9Mobile continued its nearly nine-year decline with 94,824 subscribers leaving the network in January. 9Mobile now has 3.53 million subscribers. 

Frank Eleanya Senior Reporter, TechCabal

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