Porting activities among telecom subscribers have struggled to break above 4,000 since the industry faced a five-month nationwide ban on SIM card registration.

Subscribers moving from one network to another dropped sharply to 4,085 in December 2020 from 16,342 in the previous month. It was the highest decline the industry has seen to date and was the result of the announcement in November by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy that it would impose a ban on SIM registration as part of measures to ensure more Nigerians are captured in the National Identity Number (NIN) registration exercise.

The SIM card ban came into effect in January 2020 and was lifted in May 2020, a period in which there was no porting activity for the first time since 2013.

Number porting is the process of taking an existing phone number and transferring it to another carrier. It involves two methods including local number portability and full mobile number portability. Local number portability is related to number portability that is related to fixed lines. Full mobile number portability refers to the process of changing the mobile number to a different service provider, upgrading existing service, or moving the number to a completely different location.

The NCC calculates porting activities for incoming and outgoing subscribers. Inbound portability means the number of numbers that are transferred from another service provider’s network to a service provider’s own network. Outgoing means the number of numbers ported to another service provider’s network from a service provider’s own network.

According to Ajibola Olude, COO of the Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), there are many reasons why many people would want to migrate from one network to another. For example, subscribers can port due to pricing. A network that decides to lower the cost of its data package and has relatively stable service is more likely to attract subscribers from rival networks. People also carry due to poor coverage. MTN, which has the largest network, has and continues to gain more portability subscribers than other networks due to its capacity. The telecommunications company, for example, accounts for almost half of porting activities from May 2021 to November 2022.

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Subscribers can also migrate to another network where their friends and family are. For example, if subscriber A is on the Globacom network and is married to subscriber B who is on the Airtel network, the tendency of either partner to migrate to one network is high. Olude says portability often helps subscribers enjoy reduced costs because calling within the same network is much lower than calling outside the network.

Porting can also happen because a network repositioned its customer service, causing subscribers to take notice and tell their friends. Networks that also intend to upgrade their infrastructure also attract subscribers from other networks.

Number porting data compiled by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows that over the years, porting activities have often seen an up-and-down movement. However, as of December 2020, it had never dipped below 5,000 since May 2013, when the NCC began releasing the data. It then suffered a further decline in the months after the SIM ban and has not recovered since. Instead of recovering, porting activities reached their lowest level in a month with 1,357 in April 2022. The lowest decline was recorded in 2021 with a total of 14,947 porting activities, followed by 2022, which recorded 27,662 activities in the eleven months recorded so far by the NCC. .

There are different reasons why subscriber interest in migrating from one network to another is waning. One of them is the persistent poor quality of the network. Many of the subscribers who have ported in the past to mobile network operators that they considered better than where they originally were, are not impressed and are not keeping quiet about it.

Many subscribers also find the porting process too tedious.

“Too many things tied to the number, portability is also very problematic in Nigeria. So, not making the changes any time soon,” said Taiwo Orilogbon, a blockchain engineer.

However, telecommunication companies like MTN say that only NIN and phone number are needed to complete the process at any of the service centers.

Please note that your virtual NIN is a mandatory requirement for the porting process.

The virtual NIN can be generated through the NIMC mobile app or by dialing *346*3*11-Digit-NIN*109071#

A N20 service charge applies when dialing the USSD code,” the MTN service center noted. The MNO also insists that the porting process is free.

There is also a silver lining to decreased portability, says Ajibola Olude.

“It could be due to the fact that the MNO that is losing subscribers might have upped their game to retain their subscribers or those who have actually transferred don’t see much difference between porting,” Olude said.