MACRA to introduce converged licences to allow fixed line telcos to enter mobile market


Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has revealed that it is formulating a new telecoms licensing regime which would allow fixed telephony service providers to operate full wireless networks.

 According to a report by local news source The Nation, which cites MACRA’s general director Charles Nsaliwa, the aim of the new system is to spur competition in the telecoms sector, thereby improving the quality of services and making them more affordable.

At present, companies holding one licence for a particular telecoms service are not permitted to launch a different type of service. Malawi is currently home to two fixed line operators: incumbent Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and newcomer Access Communications (ACL), which launched fixed-wireless services in January 2010. ‘This new licensing regime means that MTL or Access can become fully mobile.

In the process, we will manage to bring the number of mobile phone operators to four,’ Nsaliwa said, adding that the new licensing system would probably start in January 2011. The regime will also see responsibility for the operation of the country’s transmission towers transferred to a new company, separate from the service providers.

Recent efforts by the government to introduce fresh competition into the mobile market have met with limited success. A third mobile operator, Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), was licensed in July 2008, but the company is on the verge of losing its licence as it has failed to meet network rollout deadlines. A further two companies, Lacell of Singapore and United Arab Emirates-based Expresso Telecom Group (ETG), were awarded mobile concessions in April 2009, but both licences were suspended in October 2009, following concerns that MACRA had issued a pair of licences, but had only advertised one for sale.