UZI Zambia Mobile has reportedly been given until May 2020 to secure the funding it needs to underpin a commercial launch. According to The Southern Times the would-be mobile network operator (MNO), which acquired a concession to operate in Zambia back in April 2018, has had its investment licence extended to the aforementioned date by the local authorities. The report notes that Misheck Lungu, permanent secretary at Zambia’s Ministry of Transport and Communication (MoTC), had previously disclosed to local media that delays in the company introducing a commercial offering had been caused by UZI seeking resources that would ensure investment was not interrupted once it became operational.
Meanwhile, it would appear that there remains a possibility of the company’s concession being revoked should it fail to launch a commercial offering. In an interview given on local TV station ZNBC and cited by local news outlet Diggers, Patrick Mutimushi, director general of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), said: ‘[UZI] came to us and said we need [an] extension to be given to us for us to be able to make sure that we give the service, and that extension was given. So right now, it is still valid moving towards May 2020 which is in the next four months. Until then, we expect that they should be able to mobilise and come into the market. Yes, we have given an ultimatum, there are milestones that we have set which we are monitoring on a monthly basis whether they are meeting that or they are not meeting up and probably that licence would be withdrawn from them.’
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, UZI – which is a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings – initially targeted a November 2018 launch. However, its original timetable was delayed after it struggled to secure the frequencies it needed to operate, formalise its operating licence, and recruit necessary staff. Having then said in December 2018 it was eyeing the introduction of a commercial offering in early 2019, by March that year it had been confirmed that the authorities had granted UZI yet more time to get the service off the ground; while it was expected to enter the market in the latter part of 2019, it ultimately failed to do so.