MTN and Airtel Nigeria have finally been given permission to resume the sale of new Sim cards in Nigeria. This follows the implementation of a new policy linking the cards to user national ID numbers. The federal ministry of communications and digital economy said that the issue of Sims and other suspended activities can restart on 19 April.
All Nigerian wireless operators were ordered to stop sim cards sale in December. Given that it had no specified time, there were huge concerns on when this would resume.
Why the sim cards sale ban?
Nigeria has battled a deadly Islamist insurgency in the northeast of the country for two decades and sees the tighter monitoring of mobile phone use as a potential way to combat the problem. The regulator fined MTN more than US$5-billion in 2015 for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers, triggering a share price crash and a year of negotiations before a settlement was reached.
MTN’s local unit is the West African country’s biggest wireless operator, while Airtel Africa, which listed in Lagos and London in 2019, is just ahead of local operator Globacom as the country’s second-largest. Nigeria is also MTN’s largest and most profitable market.
37.2 million MTN subscribers registered
Last month, we told you that MTN Nigeria is in its advanced stages of renewing the operating and spectrum licence in the country for another 10 years. The telco confirmed that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had approved the renewal of the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands that are due to expire in August 2021.
The spectrum is proof for MTN’s data network and telecommunications coverage in Nigeria, arguably Africa’s biggest economy. MTN Nigeria says 37.2 million subscribers, or 48.7% of its Nigerian subscriber base, have submitted national identification numbers as part of a government requirement to tighten Sim registration.