The SIMpocalypse will probably not happen


If the Nigerian Communications Commission were to enforce a mandatory disconnection of all unregistered SIM cards in Nigeria, at least 40 percent of the active lines across the networks will get taken out. That’s a lot of lines.

The somewhat good news is that there doesn’t appear to be an actual turnoff date for unregistered SIM cards. The bad news is that it could happen next month, next week or even tomorrow. Nobody knows when, and beyond threatening telcos with hefty fines for failure to deactivate unregistered SIM cards, the NCC has not publicly announced any deadline.

The uncertainty is part of the problem. Two weeks ago, The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) petitioned the NCC to extend this deadline. Conspicuously absent in the Daily Times report of this plea is said deadline’s date.

TechCabal recently hosted a “Hangout” on Blab to discuss the issue with three people who know what they are talking about. Although Emeka Okoye couldn’t join us in the end, Oo Nwoye and Tim Akinbo helped us understand a lot of what is going on. They didn’t quite agree in some places, but both of them made very astute points.

Oo thinks that the execution of the SIM registration exercise was sloppy.

But Tim Akinbo says that the telcos are not entirely to blame, in the circumstances.

It’s very hard work, he says

And the incentives for the NCC is huge compared to the telcos. So why should they have to do it?

Perhaps the NCC/government should be helping out a lot more than they are instead of issuing fines and deadlines?

In any case, it’s hard to disagree with Oo about all the goalpost shifting that the NCC does.

But the deadline…if it eventually is decided upon…has to be realistic. Tim doesn’t think it is practical to enforce a deadline anytime soon.

Speaking of deadlines, the one who really has to be afraid of one is MTN. They are currently registering SIM cards like their life depends on it…because their life depends on it. Paying fines (or contesting them) doesn’t really look good on the balance sheet. Which is why they have employed 8,000 ad hoc workers across the country for the single purpose of catching unregistered SIM cards. Can they do it fast enough? They seem to be trying their damndest to avoid the NCC’s invisible sword of Damocles. Probably one of the few examples of when near fifty percent market share can be a pain in the butt.

The SIMpocalypse will probably not happen. But you should get your SIM registered anyway. That includes the ones you use in your dongles and other devices that are not phones.

If you didn’t catch the live broadcast with Oo and Tim, you can watch it here to get up to speed.