Home Business Telecoms SIM-NIN linkage: MTN disconnects 4.2m lines

SIM-NIN linkage: MTN disconnects 4.2m lines

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Many subscribers to the MTN network in Nigeria are now stranded as the telecommunications giant disconnected their lines over failure to link their National Identity Numbers (NIN) to their Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards.

This is coming after several warnings by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the telecoms company that subscribers must link their lines to their NINs.

On Friday, MTN Nigeria reported that over 4.2 million lines were disconnected from its network after the 28 February deadline given by the NCC.

The firm disclosed this in its Earning Report for the year ended 31 December 2023.

It also noted that 19 million lines on its network were currently being verified, adding that 4.3 million had been verified as of February.

MTN noted, “We also had approximately 4.2 million lines disconnected for which the subscribers did not submit their NIN. Several of these lines were low-value subscribers, minimising the revenue impact.

“We are actively engaging the authorities to accelerate the NIN verification process. We have also increased our engagement with the affected customers, providing various channels for verification to minimise service disruption”.

The disconnected lines are part of an industry-wide directive requiring telecom operators to bar subscribers whose lines have not been linked to their NIN.

The NCC had in December 2023 issued a directive to MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9Mobile to fully bar phone lines not linked to subscribers’ NINs by 28 February 2024.

Those who had submitted their NINs but were not verified were also subject to barring.

For lines with submitted but unverified NINs, the directive mandated barring on or before 29 March 2024, for five or more linked lines.

For less than five linked lines, it was learnt that barring would occur on or before 15 April 2024.

The NCC emphasised the need for biometric and biodata verification before unblocking the affected lines.

Industry sources noted that about 12 million lines across the networks might have been disconnected after the 28 February deadline.

Lamenting the disconnection, a stay-at-home mother in Rivers State, Mrs Comfort Pepple, said she was shocked when she tried to make a call on Thursday but could not as her MTN line had been barred.

She said, “The network on my phone is not even working. I am speaking to you now with my daughter’s phone. I am not even sure anybody can call me.

“I tried several times to link this SIM to my NIN, but it kept bouncing back, saying I needed to revalidate my NIN. I don’t have the time to go and queue. I am old”.

A resident of the Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State, Mama Nampar, lamented her plight to reporters using a neighbour’s phone.

The neighbour had shared a video on his WhatsApp status, asking for ways people who had been barred could get their lines back.

“I don’t know what to do. I am expecting some calls that will give me money. I don’t even have a NIN. I am too old to be queuing from place to place. In Qua’an Pan, it is not even free. Some vendors here ask us to pay and I cannot afford it”, she lamented.

She begged the government to extend the deadline to accommodate people like her.

Meanwhile, MTN emphasised its commitment to engaging the authorities to expedite the NIN verification process.

According to the firm, efforts have been intensified to communicate with affected customers, providing various channels for verification to minimise service disruption.

MTN Nigeria’s CEO, Karl Toriola, commenting on the company’s performance in 2023, highlighted the sustained growth in the user base, with over four million subscribers added during the year, bringing the total base to 79.7 million. Data subscribers also increased by over five million to 44.6 million, contributing to a 44.9 per cent growth in total data traffic.

Toriola attributed the robust commercial momentum to the company’s strategic investments in network quality and coverage, adding that the acquisition of the 2600MHz spectrum in September 2023 played a crucial role in efficiently deploying additional capacity to the network.

Meanwhile, the telecoms giant reported a loss for the full year 2023, its first in three years, after naira devaluation and rising cost of doing business ate into its margins.

It reported a loss after tax of N137 billion in 2023 compared to profits of N348.7 billion in 2022.

According to the full-year 2023 report released on Friday, payment of tower lease cost – indexed to the US dollar but invoiced and paid in naira – comprised most of its foreign currency exposure in operating expenses.

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