Has Zambia finally found its fourth mobile operator?

Has Zambia finally found its fourth mobile operator?

Zambian communications regulator, the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), has awarded the nation’s fourth mobile operator licence to Beeline Telecoms.

The Lusaka Times says that Beeline Telecoms, which is a wholly Zambian-owned company, has to start operations within the next six months. If it doesn’t it risks its licence being revoked, which would be an unfortunate development given that the previous award-winner, UZI Zambia, had its license withdrawn in June 2020. UZI Zambia lost the licence – over two years after the original award was made – because the company failed to launch in time. ZICTA twice postponed the deadline before revoking the licence.

In September last year, ZICTA again invited applications for the new network licence. Beeline met the minimum criteria and now has to be ready to offer services within the next half-year.

It’s not an easy playing field in which to compete given that major regional giants MTN and Airtel as well local telecoms firm Zamtel are already established in the market. In a population of around 17.3 million there were, according to Statista, 96.41 mobile subscriptions registered for every 100 people in 2019.

Despite this, again according to the Lusaka Times, ZCTA Director General Patrick Mutimushi has said the decision to introduce a fourth mobile operator was arrived at after conducting an analysis of the ICT sector market. One of the drivers for the new license was said to be the need to raise the levels of competition.

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