The Zambian government has approved a new licensing framework for the telecommunication industry, paving the way for the entry of a fourth mobile phone operator.
Brian Mushimba, Minister of Communications and Transport said his Ministry, in conjunction with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), has formulated the new licensing framework in order to realign the country’s telecom sector and allow more investment and job creation.
He said the development could facilitate Zambia’s long-awaited fourth mobile phone service provider.
The move is a shift in policy by the government which to date, has refused to grant the fourth mobile phone license because it wanted to promote competition and innovation among the three existing operators namely: MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and state-owned Zamtel.
However, as a result of ongoing poor service delivery and the high cost of communication, the government wants the operators to compete with a fourth in the hope that communication costs will be reduced and service delivery improved.
With the new licensing framework, Mushimba said the government now sees a very competitive telecom sector going forward with an increase in investment in network expansion and backbone infrastructure.
“With this new framework in place, we shall see jobs created and the quality of service will improve and it will introduce competition and the low cost of communication that comes with it. We have cleaned up the licensing framework to unleash the potential of the industry mindful of the latest technological advancements in the sector,” Mushimba said.
According to Mushimba, the new licensing regime allows any operator of data services to acquire the necessary permit to delve into Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which, until now, has been illegal.
He added that all ISPs could essentially serve as operators and can make voice calls in a regulated and optimised market.
Zambia’s mobile phone market has 12 million subscribers out of the population of 15 million people.
MTN Zambia has the largest share of the market with close to 6 million customers followed by Airtel Zambia and Zamtel with 1.5 million customers.
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