Malawi Mobile Limited, the third GSM operator in Malawi, has appointed Ericsson as its sole supplier for the rollout of its network in a deal worth around USDD20 to USDD25 million over the next three years.

Under the terms of the contract, Malawi Mobile has given Ericsson three years of exclusivity for the supply of services, hardware, software and infrastructure for the implementation of its GSM network.

The first phase of the rollout, estimated to be worth around USD$6 million, includes the provision of GSM network infrastructure, prepaid and intelligent network platforms, and the provision of an international gateway.

Malawi Mobile is owned and operated by a consortium of Malawian and international partners. A key partner in the consortium is Mauritius Telecom, which will play an important role in managing the new operations.

Malawi Mobile will be competing with the two incumbent players for a share of the country's fast-growing GSM market. Malawi is currently one of the countries with lowest GSM penetration in Africa with around 170 000 cellular phones in use in a population of around 12.4 million at the end of 2004.

"Malawi Mobile plans to introduce a host of innovative products and services to Malawi's GSM market. Working together with partners such as Ericsson and Mauritius Telecom will help us to build high-quality network with wide coverage and to offer superior customer service," says Patrick Tsaperas, director of Malawi Mobile Limited.

Says Soline de Thoisy, key account manager at Ericsson's market unit sub-Saharan Africa: "Ericsson is pleased to be working with Malawi Mobile to create a network that will further develop the telecommunication services in Malawi. We expect the rollout of the new network to proceed quickly and smoothly, bringing the benefits of more choice to the people of Malawi."