The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has awarded an operating licence to Malcel, with the new mobile player eying a commercial launch in October 2023

With only two mobile network operators (MNOs), Airtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), the Malawi telecoms sector has been struggling to introduce competition for almost 20 years.

This week the hunt for a third operator is finally over, with MACRA officially licencing Malcel to provide mobile services throughout the country.

The new operator, founded by CEO Bonface Ndawala, says it will invest over $280 million into the country in the next five years, aiming to roll out over 1,300 sites in both urban and rural areas during this period.

The infrastructure rollout itself will begin later this year, with the company targeting a commercial launch is for October 2023.

Malcel is majority owned (60%) by Eferio Communications, a Scandinavian telco group focussing on launching local mobile network operators, mobile virtual network enablers, and mobile virtual network operators in Sub-Saharan Africa. The remaining 40% equityis split between investment firm Bedrock Holdings (30%) and local and international stakeholders (10%).

“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Malcel for successfully acquiring the mobile network licence, it is my hope that this will induce competition in the telecommunications industry which will level the playing field and yield effective communication services for the ICT consumer,” said Malawi’s Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako. “I urge Malcel to roll out their services with speed as consumers are anxious to see new services […] My plea to Malcel is that you must not get into the trap of concentrating your operations in urban areas because rural people also need ICT services.”

The company has also registered the mobile money firm MCASH within the country, presumably indicating Malcel’s intent to fight for a share of this burgeoning market against its rivals existing services, TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money Malawi.

In related news, MACRA has also awarded an operating licence to SpaceX’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite subsidiary Starlink, with the company having applied for permission back in February.

Malawi will join Nigeria and Mozambique among the first African nations to give the LEO satellite service the green light.

As connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to improve, the role of the continent’s telcos is becoming more diverse, from providing mobile banking services to business support. Join the operators in discussion on the intricacies of the African market at this year’s live Total Telecom Congress

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