At least 2.9 million Simcards were wiped off the telecommunications network in only three months, according to details contained in the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Market Performance Report for the 2020 second quarter.
According to UCC, during the period, Total Revenue-Earning Customers or subscription numbers dropped from 28.4 million in the quarter to March to 25.5 million in June, which represented an 11 per cent contraction, the first in over two years.
Telecoms have not reported what impact this could have on both revenue and sector growth.
The telecom sector had last experienced such massive drops in subscriber numbers in 2017 when UCC had placed a temporary ban on Simcard sales and mandatory registration of Simcards.
For instance, during the period ended June 30, 2018, MTN reported it had deleted 700,000 Simcards off its network due to failure to adhered to mandatory registration.
Mr Ibrahim Bbosa, the UCC spokesman, could not immediately explain the drop. Calls and message inquiries sent on his known mobile phone number remained unanswered by press time.
However, UCC indicates that between April to June, a telecommunications services provider, which the report does not name, conducted "a clean-up of [its] register", thus the drop.
The report also noted that during the period, there was suppressed new demand because of the Covid-19-related lockdown that preceded the quarter and its subsequent effects on spending patterns.
UCC also blamed the drop on retail store closures across the country as well as seasonal inactivity of [Simcards] previously owned by December holidaymakers and travelers who usually leave the country in the first quarter of the year. The report also indicated that the drop was not unique to Uganda, noting that telecoms, for instance in China, had lost 15 million users between December 2019 and March 2020 while the global telecommunications sector had reported a 13 per cent reduction in shipments of smartphones resulting in disruption of domestic supply chains.
For instance, the report noted, the global smartphone market had witnessed the first year-on-year contraction with leading handset makers such as Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi reporting double-digit drops in global handset shipments.
During the period between March and June, Samsung saw smartphone shipments drop to 59 million handsets compared to 72 million in the period between January to March.
Huawei shipments dropped from 59.1 million handsets to 49 million while Apple dropped to 40 million handsets from 42 million.
The drop, UCC indicated could have influenced movements in Uganda's Internet subscriber numbers which in the period contracted by 1 per cent.
During the period, Internet enable dives reduced from 24.4 million at the end of March to 24.1 million in June, the first time new devices have failed to offset the number of discontinued handsets.