Vodafone is most likely candidate to take new Zambia licence, but market could also have room for a fifth player, minister says

The government in Zambia has given the go-ahead for the country’s telecom regulator to licence new mobile operators, it emerged this week.

The country will allow a fourth mobile operator into the market and possibly a fifth, Bloomberg quoted transport and communications minister Brian Mushimba as saying.

The fourth player could be in place within the next six to 12 months, the minister said.

As it stands, Zambia is restricted to having just three mobile operators, Reuters explained. The country passed a law to that effect in 2009 in a bid to help the current players expand their services.

The Zambian mobile market is shared between MTN, Bharti Airtel and state-owned player Zamtel.

However, as both newswires pointed out, the country approved a new licensing framework earlier this year that paves the way for market newcomers.

U.K.-based mobile group Vodafone is being widely tipped to become Zambia’s fourth mobile licensee.

Vodafone already has a presence in the country through a partnership with Afrimax Group that offers 4G-based data services under the Vodafone brand. However, it is not licensed for voice services.

The telco has been working hard to raise its profile in Zambia. Earlier this year it brokered a sponsorship deal with the City of Lusaka Football Club that gave it the right to rebrand the team stadium, according to local press reports.