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Malawi prepares for fourth GSM licence

Government hopes extra competition will boost the mobile sector.

The Malawi government has invited applications for the country's fourth mobile phone licence even before the third licence has been allocated.

The regulator, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) said the country needed more competition in the telco sector. Interested parties should submit their applications by July 25.

"We need more competition, as is the case is in many countries in the region," said Zamdziko Mankhambo, public relations officer, Macra. "Look at countries like Tanzania and South Africa - they have more than two or three mobile operators."

Currently, Malawi has two mobile operators - Celtel Malawi and TNM - with about 1 million active subscribers in total. Macra invited bids for the third licence in March and five companies have submitted applications. The government will award the licences as soon as the government appoints a new board of directors at Macra, Mankhambo said.

Patricia Kaliati, Malawi's Minister of Information and Civic Education, added that extra competition will bring mobile service coverage into the underserved rural areas.

"The Government is of the view that the introduction of the new mobile operators will help it advance towards reaching its goal of universal access to telecommunication facilities," she said. "It will also ensure that the existing operators maintain affordable calling rates owing to stiff competition."