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Zambia opens door to international investors for mobile license

Competition in mobile market welcomed

The Zambian government has reversed the law that prohibited the entry of a fourth mobile operator in the country, opening the door for regional and international telecom operators to compete for the license.

In 2009, the previous Zambian government introduced a law barring a fourth mobile operator until 2015, despite repeated calls from telecom industry stakeholders on the need to have another operator to enhance competition.

The Zambia mobile market currently has three operators -- South Africa's MTN, India's Bharti Airtel and Zamtel, a government-run operator. The previous administration said it wanted to give time for the three operators to recoup their investments.

But the minister of communications and transport in the new Zambian government, Christopher Yaluma, said the law has been revoked in order to stoke competition.

Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) had protested the law barring another operator, saying that there was enough spectrum to license more operators in the country.

"We want to ensure that Zambians benefit from the telecommunications sector through reduced cost of doing business and accessing services," said Yaluma when he toured Airtel Zambia offices last week.

Yaluma said creating competition in the country's telecom market was the only way to force operators to extend their services to remote rural areas unlike.

Airtel Zambia Managing Director Fayaz King said the announcement by the Zambian government to allow a fourth mobile operator is welcome, as it will spur competition.

"We have invested over $200 million in improving the mobile phone company's services since the beginning of its operation in the country," King said.

Airtel has been operating in Zambia for the past three years after taking over African operations from Celtel International.

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