MACRA kicks off tender for fourth mobile licence


The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has launched an international tender for a fourth licence to operate mobile phone services in the country, Reuters reports citing spokesperson Zamuziko Makambo.

The government hopes a new player in the wireless market will boost competition, improve quality of service and lead to a reduction in tariffs which are considered among the highest in southern Africa.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Malawi is home to three licensed cellcos: Kuwaiti’s Zain Malawi (the market’s largest player by subscribers with a market share of 68% at 30 September 2009), local firm Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM, 32%) and Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN). GAIN, which intends to provide services under the G-Mobile banner, won Malawi’s third wireless concession in July 2008 and a year later signed a USD90 million partnership deal with Beryl Capital and Telecoms to finance the supply, installation and commissioning of its mobile network.

However, in December 2009 GAIN admitted it would not be able to meet the 31 December deadline for the rollout of its network as stipulated by its licence, requesting an extension to the date. The same month it announced a deal with Chinese equipment vendor ZTE for the construction of its wireless network.

MACRA awarded a further two mobile licences in April 2009 to Lacell of Singapore and Dubai-based Expresso Telecommunications Group, but these were suspended after concerns were raised over the way the permits were advertised and awarded.