Malawi calls for a third mobile network licence

Malawi calls for a third mobile network licence

Malawi remains one of the world’s least developed countries, with few resources to build efficient fixed-line telecom infrastructure. As a result, the country’s two mobile networks provide the vast majority of connections for voice and data services.

Both Airtel Malawi and TMN have invested in LTE to improve data services, and by September 2019 TMN’s entire network had been upgraded to LTE. Nevertheless, this market duopoly has resulted in relatively high prices for services, prompting the government in late 2020 to call for a new license to be issued in a bid to improve market competition.

Mobile penetration remains low in comparison to the regional average and so there are considerable opportunities for further growth, particularly in the mobile broadband sector.

The internet sector is reasonably competitive, with about 50 licensed ISPs, though the limited availability and high cost of international bandwidth has held back growth and kept broadband access prices among the highest in the region. These limitations are being addressed, with national fibre backbone nearing completion and improved access to international submarine cables via a transit link from neighbouring countries.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments:

  • President of Malawi calls for a third mobile licence to be awarded;
  • New SIM cards required registration process;
  • Government begins review of the National ICT policy and the Malawi Digital Broadcasting policy;
  • Regulator uses USF to install mobile towers in rural areas, to be leased to Airtel Malawi and MTL for a fee;
  • Airtel Malawi completes an IPO;
  • MTL switches off its CDMA network;
  • World Bank provides $72.4 million to help Malawi engage in the digital economy;
  • Reserve Bank of Malawi reports on m-payment progress for Q2 2020;
  • Regulator leans on Universal Access Fund to improve mobile services to rural areas;
  • Report updates include recent market developments, regulator’s market report for 2018, operator data to Q2 2020, assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

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Developing Telecoms market report summaries are produced in partnership with BuddeCom, the world’s largest continually updated online telecommunications research service.

The above article is a summary of the following BuddeCom report:

Report title: Malawi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

Edition: October 2020

Analyst: Henry Lancaster

Contributing Analyst: Peter Lange

Number of pages: 71

Companies mentioned in this report: Malawi Telecommunications (MTL), Access Communications (ACL), Bharti Airtel (Zain, Celtel), Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), G-Mobile (GAIN), Celcom, ESCOM, MalawiNet, MTL Online, Skyband, Globe Internet, Broadmax, Burco

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