Mobile penetration in Malawi remains low in comparison to the regional average and so there are considerable opportunities for further growth - particularly in the mobile broadband sector, reports Research & Markets.
Malawi is one of the world's poorest and least developed countries globally, and has suffered from inconsistent economic growth in recent years. Businesses endured high inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency in 2015 and 2016, though the economy has since rebounded - GDP is forecast to have grown 3.5% in 2018, and the currency has stabilised. These factors have enabled telecom operators to fund network upgrades, with the result that considerable investment has been channelled into fixed-line and mobile infrastructure upgrades in recent years.
TMN was the first operator to launch an LTE-A service, followed by Airtel Malawi in January 2018. The market remains a duopoly between these two operators, with G-Mobile and Celcom Malawi having failed to launch services. However, there is expectation that Lacell Private (operating under the Smart Mobile brand) will provide some competition and encourage a reduction in end-user prices. In a bid to discourage crime, the regulator has imposed SIM card registration effective for all new cards since July 2018.
To encourage additional market competition, the government has followed in the footsteps of several of its neighbours and introduced a converged licensing regime which allows the two fixed-line operators, Malawi Telecommunications (MTL) and Access Communications (ACL), to enter the mobile market as well. The converged licensing regime was revised and came into force in September 2016.
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. DSL services are available. The incumbent in late 2017 closed down the CDMA network, while the WiMAX component was closed down in early 2018.
A national fibre backbone is nearing completion, while the country recently gained access to international submarine fibre optic cables via a transit link from neighbouring countries.