The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has given Celcom an additional six months to roll out services or face the cancellation of its dual fixed and mobile telephony licence, which was awarded in May 2011, reports Bizcommunity.com. Under the terms of its concession, Celcom was required to roll out services by the end of October 2012, but following a request from the company, MACRA has agreed to extend the deadline by a further six months to 30 April 2013. Celcom cited a shortage of foreign exchange as the reason behind its failure to meet the original deadline. Locally-owned Celcom fought off competition from three companies – Zambezi Africa Telecom, C-Mobile Holdings Limited and Smart Telecom Limited – for Malawi’s first technology-neutral licence in May last year; the firm said it aims to bring affordable wireless services to consumers, particularly in rural areas of the country.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that Malawi is currently home to two operational wireless operators; market leader Airtel Malawi (formerly known as Zain), which is owned by India’s Bharti Airtel, and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), a subsidiary of fixed line incumbent Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL). A third mobile operator, Global Advanced Integrated Networks (G-Mobile), was licensed in July 2008, but the company has not yet launched services and has failed to meet numerous network rollout deadlines. Meanwhile, MTL and newcomer Access Communications Limited (ACL), which launched fixed telephony services in January 2010, are currently the only two players in the wireline arena. In a move designed to enhance competition and improve the quality of service in the telecoms sector, the country’s five established telecoms companies received technology-neutral operating licences in October 2011 under a new converged licensing regime.