According to the Times of Swaziland, the government is currently considering applications from four international telecoms operators that are interested in entering the country’s mobile phone market. The four as-yet-unnamed companies – which are collectively based in Israel, Kenya and South Africa – are believed to have submitted proposals to the Swaziland Investment Promotions Authority (SIPA) during the first half of 2011. SIPA director Phiwayinkhosi Ginindza has indicated that, barring regulatory hurdles, Swaziland could have a second operational cellco before the end of 2011. Although the newspaper claims to be aware of the identities of the interested parties, it plans to keep them under wraps until the decision-making process gains momentum.
However, Ginindza confirmed that the Israeli investors visited the country this week for advanced talks, admitting that the visit is part of a broader exploration of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) free trade agreement, which encompasses nineteen countries in the region. As things currently stand, MTN Swaziland remains the sole operator currently active in the Swazi wireless sector. CEO Ambrose Dlamini previously told the Times: ‘We feel that competition is healthy. Whether we compete with a new player or the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC), we are quite open to it. For us, everywhere you go, apart from Swaziland, MTN is operating in a competitive environment, so it is not as if we are against competition. All players must compete on a level playing field and on the same terms and conditions’.
Meanwhile, in related news, the Times also reports that two updated versions of the Communications Bill are currently waiting to be debated in parliament. Chief communications regulator Stan Motsa told the newspaper: ‘The two bills will forever change the communications landscape of the country. They will certainly liberalise the information, communications and technology sector. The bills – once adopted into law – will ensure that Swaziland is on a par with regional and international requirements on electronic communications sector reforms’. It is thought that the ongoing mobile licence award process hinges on the successful approval of the new legislation.