Why MTN Nigeria Lost a Record 2.8 Million Internet Subscribers

Telecom operator giant, MTN Nigeria, has experienced a significant drop in its internet subscribers. Over 2.8 million users exited the MTN network in January, marking the most substantial decline since May 2023. This drop left the telecom giant with 67.8 million subscribers, a stark contrast to the 70.6 million recorded in December.

The decline in MTN Nigeria’s internet subscribers is attributed to the company’s efforts to comply with the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) directive to link all SIM cards with a National Identity Number (NIN). This regulation, aimed at enhancing security and reducing fraudulent activities, required telecom operators to deregister all phone lines without a NIN and those with unverified NINs.

Despite the significant impact on MTN, the overall industry figures were somewhat cushioned by gains from other operators. Airtel, the second-largest internet service provider in Nigeria, added 890,935 subscribers in January, reaching a total of 45.9 million. Similarly, Globacom saw an increase of 192,313 subscribers, bringing its total to 44.1 million.

MTN Nigeria’s history with regulatory fines, including a $5.2 billion penalty in 2015 for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards, adds context to the urgency with which the company approached the NCC’s directive. The telecom operator began compliance almost immediately after the directive was issued and made several advertorials to encourage subscribers to update or register their NIN.

The initial deadline for the disconnection of unlinked lines was set for March 29, 2024, but the NCC has extended it to July 31, 2024. This extension provides a reprieve for subscribers and operators alike, allowing more time for compliance and potentially mitigating further subscriber losses.

The decline in MTN Nigeria’s internet subscribers is a significant event in the country’s telecom industry, highlighting the challenges operators face in balancing regulatory compliance with customer retention. As the deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see how MTN Nigeria and other operators navigate these challenges and whether MTN can recover from this record loss of subscribers.

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