NCC Withdraws 41m Telephone Numbers Assigned to CDMA Operators


The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has withdrawn 41,095,448 telephone numbers (fixed and mobile) assigned to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators.

This withdrawal as was made known by New Telegraph, is said to have taken place in the first quarter of this year as part of regulatory efforts to put the country’s National Numbering Plan in order.

The numbers withdrawn were those belonging to Starcomms, Zoom Mobile (formerly Reltel), Multi-links, MTS First Wireless, Mobitel Limited, Rainbownet Limited, Odu’a Telecoms Limited, M-Tel and NITEL.

However, Visafone, which was acquired in 2016 by leading GSM operator MTN, still has its numbers active in the National Numbering Plan for the first quarter. Although MTN was not interested in sustaining the CDMA operation but using its spectrum to enhance its data services.

As at February this year, the duo of Multi-links and Visafone, even though inactive, still had 217,566 lines connected.

What Prompted the Withdrawal?

According to NCC’s regulation, the Commission has the power to withdraw numbers allocated to service providers if the numbers are being “used for a service that does not satisfy the applicable usage conditions; no number in the block has been brought into service within 12 months of the grant of the application for the assignment; or the block is needed for advancing a clearly identified national interest.”

However, the rule also states that the Commission must notify a licensee about the reasons for a proposal to withdraw a block of numbers at least 6 months before the withdrawal.

The rule states that:

Where the Commission notifies a Licensee about a proposal to withdraw a Block from an Assignment to the Licensee— the Licensee shall not thereafter bring into service any Numbers in the Block unless the Commission informs the Licensee that it has decided not to withdraw the Block.

What Would this Withdrawal Mean for CDMA?

Considering the golden age of CDMAs are past, this move by NCC might have dealt a final blow to the segment. The segment which was the saving grace for Nigerians before GSM operators licensing also experienced a boom even after GSM operators came in, until 2007 when the downward trend set in.

Since then, many CDMA operators have been experiencing hard times in maintaining their subscriber base and also expanding their existing number.

While GSM now controls 99.7 per cent of the market share, CDMA which seem non-existent in terms of infrastructure and physical presence has 0.15 per cent of the market. This further shows the sad fate of CDMA Operators.


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