A new mobile phone network service has been awarded a license to operate in Malawi, according to local media reports. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority issued Monday a 10-year public telecoms services license to Lacell Private Limited as part of efforts to boost the information and communications technology sector and increase competition in the southeastern African country.
“Competition is good, it benefits the consumer on prices and quality of service so that consumers get what they pay for,” Godfrey Itaye, head of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, told local newspaper Nyasa Times, adding that Malawi had high expectations for Lacell.
Lacell board chair Farook Sattar said the newly licensed mobile phone network operator had already invested $150 million and was ready to roll out its services. Lacell, which uses the brand name Smart Mobile, was expected to create a thousand jobs and provide coverage to the rural masses in Malawi. The company failed in a previous bid for a similar license in 2008 after it failed to meet the necessary criteria.
“It’s a challenge to come in at a later stage in a market where big market competitors already exist,” Sattar told local newspaper the Nation Monday in Blantyre. “However, we feel we will be able to bring significant value and innovations to the consumer of Malawi.”
There are two established mobile phone network service providers in Malawi: Airtel Malawi, a subsidiary of Pan-African mobile operator Balti, and TNM, which is owned by Malawian conglomerate Press Corporation. These two companies currently share a market of more than 1.5 million subscribers. The Malawian government plans to grant licenses to additional companies to increase the number of phone users in the country, which has a population of about 16 million.
Celcom was awarded a mobile operator license in Malawi in 2011 but has not yet rolled out. In 2010, Malawi’s telecoms regulator canceled a license awarded to G-Mobile after the company failed to launch its services within a year.
Malawi is one of the most expensive countries in the world to use mobile phones, and the nation’s telephone penetration is very low compared to the African average. Malawians generally use more than $12 a month on mobile phones, which is more than half of what an ordinary Malawian earns per month, according to a report by the International Telecommunications Union.