International and regional mobile operators are set to fight for a license as Zambia's fourth mobile operator.

Zambian Minister of Communications and Transport Yamfwa Mukanga aid the successful bidder will be issued a license next year when the country implements its digital migration project.

The southern African country had put off plans last year to have a fourth mobile operator, despite having received bids from several telecom operators.

Companies that have shown interest in investing in Zambia include South Africa-based Vodacom, which also has operations in Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As in many other countries in Africa, the Zambian government has decided to bring in a fourth operator because of the high cost of making calls in the country. There is general belief in Africa that the greater the number of operators in a country, the lower the communication costs due price wars that result from competition.

 "The government is concerned with the high cost of communication," Mukanga said. "We are therefore very hopeful that the fourth mobile operator will come with many advantages including reduced cost of making phone calls and other services."

Zambia's telecom market is currently dominated by South Africa's MTN, India's Bharti Airtel and Zamtel, a Zambian government owned operator.

However, the three operators have been resisting attempts by the Zambian government to force them to reduce high calling rates. At the same time, they have been criticized for providing poor services, forcing the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) to drag them to court.

Although the country's fourth mobile license will be issued next year, the Zambian government has said it will be receiving and evaluating bids for the license this year.

In 2012, the current Zambian government succeeded in reversing the law that prohibited the entry of the fourth mobile operator in the country. The previous government said then that it wanted to give the current three operators time to recoup their investment.

Zambia plans to migrate to digital television services by 2015, in line with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) deadline.