MTN Nigeria has reportedly lost some five million mobile subscribers in the first quarter of this year as it struggles to meet SIM re-registration deadline in that country.
Additionally, the telco giant reported that active data subscribers also dropped slightly by 71,000 to 32.5 million.
In December 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) instructed all mobile network service providers to deactivate, within a two-week period, SIM cards that were not linked to National Identity Numbers (NIN).
The deadline was shifted at least twice to 6 April 2021.
But the exercise was largely criticized as a difficult one because it took eight years for the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to register only about 42 million people on the NIN database. Meanwhile, Nigeria has about 100 million mobile network subscribers.
This means NIMC would need to register over 57 million subscribers within a four-month window to meet this target, which is being seen as impossible given than they took eight years to register 42 million.
In spite of this, the NCC insisted that telcos meet the April 6 deadline, and that has led to telcos losing revenue generating customers, at least temporarily.
But MTN Nigeria also reported that part of the loses is due to customer churn, as some subscribers have also abandoned their SIMs.
Despite this, the company’s service revenue climbed by 17.2% to ₦385.2 billion and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) climbed by 19.1% to ₦204.5-billion.
EBITDA margin also climbed by 0.9 percentage points to 53.1%, while earnings per share rose by 42.5% and profit before tax also up 33.9%.
Again, although active data subscribers fell slightly, MTN Nigeria still recorded an 86.7% increase in data traffic, supporting by additional access to the key 800MHz band.
Digital revenue grew by 101% and fintech revenue by 28.5% as customers continued to adopt digital products and services, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola told shareholders “We continue to collaborate with the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Nigerian Identity Management Commission to update subscriber records with the national identity number (NIN).”
He noted that more than 35 million subscribers have submitted their NINs as at 30 April 2021, representing approximately 50% of its subscriber base and 63% of service revenue.
“We made good progress in the first quarter of 2021 despite the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.