Telecoms operator, 9mobile, which until recently was Etisalat Nigeria Limited, has lost over one million subscribers since the take-over of the firm by a consortium of banks in June, this year.
The take-over followed the failure of Etisalat to offset the remainder of $1.2 billion syndicated loan granted it to expand its operations few years ago.
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on its website in September, 2017, indicated that 9mobile had 18,022,674 subscribers in June.
Between June, 2017, and September, 2017, 818,734 subscribers dropped out of the network, with an increased number expected to be recorded in December, 2017, impeccable sources said.
NCC statistics showed that 9mobile recorded a drop in customers by 145,791 in September, giving a customer base of 17,203,940 as against 17,349,731 users in August.
Since the debt impasse of the former Etisalat early this year, there has been a continuous drop in its subscriber base. 16 firms are already scrambling to acquire it.
While the plunge is not peculiar to 9mobile, the rate and trend of the network’s decline in subscriber base appear to have become a source of concern to stakeholders.
According to the telecom industry regulator, MTN had 50,307,169 users in September, showing an increase of 255,597 from the 50,051,572 it recorded in August.
Globacom’s figure increased in September by 45,612 to reach 37,349,979 customers as against 37,304,367 in August.
Airtel had 34,625,744 subscribers in the month under review, which showed an increase of 304,131 users from the 34,321,613 recorded in August.
Conversely, the regulator stated that 9mobile recorded a drop in customers by 145,791 in September, giving a customer base of 17,203940 as against 17,349,731 users in August.
The consistent drop in subscriber number has been an issue of worry to the NCC.
It also serves as a reflection in the drop of subscriber teledensity from 110.8 percent in January to 102.19 percent in June this year.
Reacting to the drop, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders’ Management, NCC, Sunday Dare, attributed shunning, consolidation and recession as reasons for the drop in subscriber base.
According to him, “Most subscribers shun making calls for a long period of time, and by the time it reaches 90 days, the SIM card is automatically deactivated.”
He also explained that consolidation has forced most subscribers with multiple lines to drop some lines and stick to one line since they can do data and voice from a single line across other networks.
He said that economic recession has also forced subscribers to cut down on their recharge card spending, and devised other means of communication through social media platforms like WhatsApp and Skype, which are free and driven by over the top technology (OTT).
In June this year, MTN had 53.1 million active subscribers on its network, followed by Globacom with 37.4 million subscribers.
Airtel had 34.1 million subscribers on its network while 9mobile had 18.2 million subscribers.
Industry observers said the subscriber base may fall further before next year if urgent steps were not taken to stem the tide.
The decline in the subscriber base of 9mobile has been attributed to the debt crisis which has been rocking the company.
When the debt crisis started brewing early this year, 9mobile had 20 million subscribers, but as at September, 2017, it had lost 2.8 million subscribers.
However, a report released by the NCC last year revealed that porting of telecoms subscribers favoured 9mobile.
It also recorded the highest number of subscribers that migrated to its network in the month of September, 2017.
This is contained in NCC’s ‘Incoming and Outgoing Porting Activities of Mobile Network Operators Report’ posted on its website.
The commission noted that 9mobile led in the incoming porting table for September with an additional 11,517 customers joining its network.
Meanwhile, Airtel came second on the gainers’ list with 2,660 subscribers.
1,928 subscribers moved to MTN, while Globacom got 704 customers.
Industry analysts have expressed unease over the lingering state of the telecoms industry, citing the example of the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
It would be recalled that what GSM operators are facing today is how it started with Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators which cumulated in distress of all the operators in the subsector of the industry.