Inactive GSM lines rise to 84.7m

Despite the monthly growth in subscriptions across the GSM networks, 84.7 million mobile lines have become inactive, New Telegraph has learnt. This means less revenue for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) amidst aggressive push for SIM sales.


According to the latest data posted by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), telephone lines so far sold by the MNOS hit 258.5 million as at June this year.


However, only 173.7 million of the 258.5 million mobile lines are still actively being used by telecoms consumers to access voice services from their respective operators, leaving over 84.7 million redundant. With this, the MNOs are able to generate revenue from only 67 per cent of SIMs sold to their customers.


A mobile line is said to be inactive if it is not used by the subscriber to make or receive calls and/or access data services for a period of 90 days, at the minimum. Such lines are separated from active lines as they generate no revenue for telecoms operators within the stated period.

Industry watchers have attributed the increasing number of inactive lines to the fact that SIM cards are now easy to acquire and dump.


According to them, the MNOs are also contributing to the increase through their aggressive marketing through which they give out SIMs for free.


Analysis of the subscriber data showed that as connected lines are increasing, number of inactive lines is also rising.


For instance, the number of connected lines grew from 249.2 million in January to 258.5 million in June, indicating that additional 9.2 million lines were connected within six months. Inactive lines also grew by same margin, 9.2 million, rising from 75.5 million to 84.7 million within the same period.


In the six months period, active subscriptions on the mobile networks only grew marginally from 173.6 million in January to 173.7 million June, indicating that the operators were only able to gain about 100, 000 active users.


However, speaking in a telephone interview with our correspondent, the President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Olusola Teniola, noted that the situation was still normal since the active lines for the GSM operators are more than the inactive lines.


According to him, loyalty of prepaid customers to their networks is minimal, hence, it is easy for them to drop a line and go for another one.


He said: “With increasing migration of pre-paid subscribers, from a usage basis, this means that there is far less loyalty to remain with an operator and easy for expats and mobile road warriors to dispense with SIM cards and return to obtain another SIM card when they return to Nigeria. So it is still okay that number of active SIM cards exceeds the number of inactive SIM cards. If it happens otherwise, it signifies saturation or heavy churn due to alternative offerings over Wi-Fi or other non based SIM devices.”


He, however, observed that the telcos needed to win more post-paid subscribers to reduce the number of inactive lines.


“With more post-paid accounts the number of inactive SIM cards should decrease, as the SIM is usually provisioned subject to a tenured contract being in place” he added.


Meanwhile, with the new number management policy recently introduced by NCC, subscribers, whose lines have been inactive for 12 months, would forfeit them. In a recently released numbering plan regulation, NCC said it would henceforth withdraw inactive lines after 12 months.


“Subscriber numbers that have not generated revenue by originating calls will automatically be recovered after 12 consecutive months,” part of the new numbering plan read.


In the new plan, NCC said it would conduct regular audit in order to ascertain the level of utilisation of numbers assigned to operators.


“The numbers issued will be categorised as follows: Assigned i.e. total number assigned by the regulator including operator codes; Quantity of numbers already assigned and sold to subscribers (SIM cards); Quantity of numbers in trade channels i.e. numbers with assigned SIM cards but not yet sold; Revenue generating subscribers during the preceding 90 days prior to the reporting period; and Quantity of numbers in quarantine,” the commission said.


Describing the numbers as scarce resources that must be well managed by the regulator, NCC noted that recent developments in the global telecommunications industry, such as machine to machine (M2M) communications, the internet of things, over-the-top services and other service made possible by fourth-generation networks and the futuristic 5G/6G technologies, necessitated a review of the country’s numbering plan.


“Also, the near total collapse of the fixed network in Nigeria calls for a review of the numbering plan in order to free up resources that are assigned to non-existent users,” it said.


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