The telecommunications industry has taken a hard hit over the decision of the Federal Government to suspend the sale, registration and activation of new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

Pursuant to the SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) linkage directive by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ibrahim Pantami, and the need to clean up the subscriber data base of the country in view of rising insecurity, the minister directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to suspend the activation of new SIM cards in December, last year.

Market research to date shows that teledensity has decreased from its highest peak of 108.92 per cent at the end of last November and a drop in the number of mobile subscriptions from nearly 208 million to 200.2 million.

According to Wikipedia, “Telephone density or teledensity is the number of telephone connections for every hundred individuals living within an area. It varies widely across the nations and also between urban and rural areas within a country. Telephone density has significant correlation with the per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the area.”

Also, Nigeria’s active internet subscriptions have dropped from nearly 155 million at the end of last November to about 151.2 million at the end of January 2021.

This represents a loss of 3.6 million active internet subscriptions within two months – after over a year of steady growth in active internet subscriptions.

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) also suffered a similar fate with active subscriptions dropping from 429,121 to 387,169 within the same period.

Similarly, between last November and December broadband penetration decreased marginally from 45.07per cent to 45.02per cent.

However, between last December and this January, Nigeria experienced a major decrease in broadband penetration when it fell to 42.93per cent after the number of broadband subscriptions dropped from nearly 86 million to less than 82 million.

Fixed wired active internet subscriptions continued with steady monthly growth from 9,866 at the end of February 2020 to 11,545 at the end of January 2021.

NCC said the marginal dip of three per cent in broadband penetration was as a result of the suspension of new SIM card activation.

A stakeholder in the telecoms industry said the policy of  disenfranchinsing Nigerians from accessing telecoms services was contrary to the third mandate of the NCC.

“The Commission should realise that it is like the CBN, which does not allow itself to be micromanaged by Ministry of Finance. So, disenfranchising Nigerians from enjoying telecoms services under any guise runs contrary to item three of the mandate of the Commission which is: ‘To promote the provision of modern, universal, efficient, reliable, affordable and easily accessible communications services and the widest range thereof throughout Nigeria’.”

While stakeholders were hoping the policy will soon be reviewed to allow telcos and merchants to sell and register new SIM cards, that hope was dashed when the minister said the ban will remain in force ad ifinitum.