LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Multiple SIM ownership declining

Multiple SIM ownership has been a topic we have given much thought to over the years. Unlike the ITU, we never thought it was a good thing in and of itself. We tried to understand why people bothered to juggle multiple SIMs. We found it had many causes, not just high interconnection charges as suggested by Telegeography below. Gaps in coverage and discounts for calling friends and family were among the factors identified.

But anyway, looks like multiple SIM ownership is declining. Good. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on ITU’s ICT Development Index, which rewards multiple SIM use.

One explanation for slowdown in some markets would be a new trend away from multiple SIM card ownership. This was originally fueled by high interconnection fees and attractive rates for on-network calls. Users took advantage of this by having two or more SIMs and switching between them when calling people on different networks.

Take Brazil, for example. In February 2016, interconnection fees were lowered from BRL0.16 per minute to BRL0.10, and they are due to fall again to BRL0.05 in 2017. The lower rates mean cheaper cross-network tariffs for consumers; this results in a drop in multiple SIM use. Since operators are taxed on the number of lines they have in service, they are quick to disconnect inactive SIMs.

The latest figures from regulator Anatel show that the country lost 21.2 million mobile users in the 12 months to end-November 2016, a drop of almost 8% year-on-year.

Discussion in Telegeography blog

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