Johannesburg – Africa’s biggest mobile network MTN [JSE:MTN] has shed millions of subscribers in Nigeria amid a SIM registration fine saga in that country.
MTN, in a quarterly update for the period ended March 31, said that it had disconnected 4.5 million Nigerian subscribers in February in a bid to comply with the country’s regulators. This means that MTN’s Nigeria subscriber base now stands at 57 million.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slapped a $5.2bn fine on MTN last year for failing to disconnect around 5 million unregistered SIM cards in a timely manner.
The fine was subsequently reduced to $3.9bn but lawmakers in Nigeria have threatened to hike the fine again.
Discussions between MTN and Nigerian authorities are ongoing regarding the fine, said the company’s quarterly update.
But in the meantime, MTN says it’s taking no risks regarding unregistered SIMs on its Nigerian network.
“During the first quarter of 2016, the group was impacted by the ‘after shocks’ of the events that took place towards the end of 2015, mainly the subscriber registration process in many of the countries in which we operate, with Nigeria being the largest,” said MTN Group executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko.
“In order to mitigate any future regulatory challenges, the group took an exceptionally conservative stance by disconnecting all subscribers who could possibly be deemed to be non-compliant.
“This has had a significant unfavourable impact on total subscriber growth and revenue in Q1 16. Nonetheless, we believe this resolve to address compliance matters decisively, has put the Group on a solid footing as regards the subscriber registration process and regulatory matters in general,” said Nhleko.
MTN has also shed subscribers in South Africa, as the company recorded a 1.7% quarter on quarter fall to 30.1 million connections.
The company’s third major market in Iran, though, recorded growth of 1% over the quarter to 46.6 million connections.
In a further updated, MTN said its capital expenditure on its 3G and 4G network roll-out has more than doubled year-on-year to R6.9bn.
The company also said that its constant currency data revenue increased 20.1% year on year and that this segment is contributing 24.2% to its total revenues. Meanwhile, voice and data traffic on MTN’s networks respectively each increased 12.1% and 123.3% on a year on year basis