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MTN links 70% subscribers to NIN ahead of mobile money kick-off

MTN’s data revenue up 53% on internet traffic surge

MTN, the newest Payment Service Bank (PSB) licensee, has linked 70 percent of its total subscribers as of Friday April 8, 2022, according to a report by FBN Quest.

As of February, MTN had over 74.9 million mobile subscribers giving it 37.8 percent share of the telecom market in Nigeria, data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows. The telco has now linked 51 million subscribers to the NIN providing it with a solid base as it kicks off its mobile money business following the approval of its PSB licence by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

On April 4, the federal government through the NCC ordered the barring of numbers yet to be linked to the NIN.

“Outgoing calls will subsequently be barred for telephone lines that have not complied with the NIN-SIM linkage policy from the 4th of April. Subscribers of such lines are hereby advised to link their SIMs to their NINs before the telcos can lift the restriction on their lines,” a statement from the NCC noted.

The NIN-SIM linkage exercise is an offshoot of the 2020 subscriber registration database audit that led to the suspension of new SIM card registration for the most part of the first quarter of 2021. Since it was first announced to linke customer mobile lines with national identities in the fourth quarter of 2020, the regulator has extended deadlines on several occasions, with the most recent being on March 31, 2022.

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In a build-up to the April 4 deadline, the commission had requested that all civilians and legal residents of Nigeria submit their respective NIN as soon as possible. The NCC also informed the public that the government had given the go-ahead for the NIN-SIM policy restriction with no extensions for NIN linkages, and that mobile network operators (MNOs) will be required to bar out-going calls of non-compliant lines.

FBN Quest researchers said in a report the directive will result in a mild moderation in MTN’s average revenue per user (ARPU) and voice revenue for the year.

“However, we can expect a spike in data revenue given the adoption of VoIP (Voice over IP) as an alternative to voice calls. In 2021, MTNN’s service and voice revenues were NGN971bn and NGN516bn respectively. In a worst-case scenario, we estimate that earnings could come in flattish y/y in ‘22f by lowering expected voice revenue by 9 percent and assuming no surprise growth in data revenues and zero reconnection of restricted lines,” the researchers noted.

Along with barring unlinked SIMs, there is also a mandatory use of verified NINs for new SIM activations and other related transactions like SIM swaps. The NCC also mandates a maximum of four new SIM per NIN and only four new SIMs per mobile network operator.

The FBNQuest noted that the market’s initial reaction to the directive was broadly neutral, with MTN Nigeria shares down only -2.8 percent last week.