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Industry’s first data subscribers gain fail to lift 9Mobile, MTN

9Mobile and MTN have continued to lose data subscriptions despite a slight recovery of the market in August. The total number of data subscribers rose to reach 139.8 million from 139.3 million in July according to. It is the first growth the industry is recording since November 2020.

The 485,867 subscribers and the losses that 9Mobile and MTN recorded were mostly shared between Globacom (453,109) and Airtel (560,761).

The fourth-largest operator, 9Mobile led the most decline with the total number of data subscriptions on the network dropping to a nine-year low to 5.9 million in August from 6.1 million as 115,416 subscribers left the network. The last time the total number of subscriptions on the network dropped below 6 million was in November 2013.

After going on four years run of losses, 9Mobile was beginning to turn the corner in July 2020. The telco, however, saw only 4 months of growth (July to October 2020) before recessive forces and the government’s mandate for subscribers to link their SIM cards with the National Identification Number (NIN). The NIN registration mandate also led to the suspension of SIM card sales registration in December 2020 thereby exacerbating the situation for operators. 9Mobile has lost 1.2 million subscribers between November 2020 and August 2021.

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MTN, the largest operator in Nigeria, has lost more data subscribers within that period because of the size of its market. The telco began losing subscribers in December 2020 the same month the SIM card sales ban came into effect and by August 2021 has lost 6.7 million subscriptions. MTN’s total data subscribers now stand at 58.5 million in August compared to July where it recorded 59 million.

Although the SIM card ban was lifted in April 2021, both telcos are yet to gain new subscribers this year, a situation experts have attributed to the macroeconomic condition in the country which has affected income levels significantly.

MTN recently paid an N71.6 billion fee to renew two licences – the 900MHz licence and the 1800MHz licence – for the next 10 years and another payment of N374.6 million for the renewal of its Universal Access Service (UAS) licence for the next 10 years.

Karl Toriola, CEO of MTN Nigeria said the spectrum licence would enable the telco to provide 3G and 4G technology services to its 73.1 million voice subscribers in Nigeria. The 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands are used mainly for voice. MTN uses its 2600MHz spectrum license for 4G, which is mainly for data.

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