Zambia revises telecoms licensing framework

19 Apr 2017

Brian Mushimba, Zambia’s Minister of Communications and Transport, has revealed that, working in partnership with the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), the country has formulated a new licensing framework. According to iTWeb Africa, the proposed framework has been designed to realign the nation’s telecom sector, encourage investment, and create new jobs, while most notably it could serve as a pre-cursor to the introduction of a fourth mobile network operator (MNO).

‘With this new framework in place, we shall see jobs created and the quality of service will improve and it will introduce competition and the low cost of communication that comes with it. We have cleaned up the licensing framework to unleash the potential of the industry mindful of the latest technological advancements in the sector.’ Mr Mushimba is cited as saying, noting that the new licensing regime will allow any operator of data services to acquire a permit for the delivery of VoIP-based connectivity, a move which he said means that any of the country’s ISPs will be able to add voice to their existing product ranges. ‘We see a very competitive market now moving forward with lots of investment in the network expansion and backbones because a company can now take one licence and based on their infrastructure, offer multiple products,’ the minister added.

While the Zambian authorities have long held off from issuing a new cellular concession, preferring instead to promote competition between the three existing operators – MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and Zamtel – it is understood that continued quality of service (QoS) issues and high prices have prompted something of a rethink. Indeed, Vodafone Zambia, which currently provides mobile broadband services over a TD-LTE network which it inaugurated in June 2016, could be the key beneficiary from the move. Just ahead of its launch, the ZICTA was keen to stress that it had not issued the company a MNO concession, confirming in early June 2016 that it was restricted to offering internet services only, as it only held a class network (wireless internet) licence and a class service (internet) licence. These concessions, it was noted, only allowed the operator to construct a data network and to provide data services to the public. Now, however, under the revised licensing regime Vodafone Zambia would be able to offer voice over its LTE network, subject to acquiring a permit to offer VoIP.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Vodafone Zambia has welcomed the government’s plan to modernise the country’s telecoms sector by introducing the updated framework, with the Lusaka Times citing the operator’s CEO Lars Stork as saying: ‘We applaud Cabinet, particularly the Ministry of Transport and Communication under the leadership of Hon. Brian Mushimba, for this step. As Vodafone Zambia, we are excited about what this means for Zambian consumers who will soon have a multiplicity of communication options best suited to their needs. We are convinced that this decision will open the door for innovation, leading to excellence in service delivery.’