Nigeria is still the biggest telecommunications market on the African continent. But will SIM registration rules eventually put a dent in the numbers?
Statistics for January this year, recently released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), suggested that mobile subscriptions have reached 185.74 million (seven per cent growth year-on-year). MTN remains top of the list of operators with some 70.7 million subscribers, while Globacom has 51.8 million subscribers, and Airtel 49.9 million. Number four provider 9Mobile has 13.2 million subscribers.
Between December 2019 and January 2020, MTN gained the highest number of new subscribers, about 1.93 million, while Globacom added 55,509 new mobile phone users within the same period. However, both Airtel and 9mobile lost subscribers over that time.
With a population estimated at around 200 million, it’s a fair bet that often more than one Nigerian subscription will be held by the same person. However, recent laws on the registration of SIM cards – making both registration and multiple SIM card ownership more difficult – may affect future mobile take-up calculations. As we noted on 10 March, the NCC said that all improperly registered SIM cards – about 2.2 million – across mobile network operators in Nigeria had been completely deactivated.
Nevertheless the high take-up of mobile communications can be seen as positive news for Nigeria’s operators at a time when 4G coverage is being phased in (or in some cases, boosted with densification efforts) across the country. However, this may be essential if analyst reports that Nigeria is one of the poorest places in the world for 4G network speed and availability are correct.