Newly licenced mobile phone network operator, Lacell Private Limited, says it has invested $150 million (about K84 billion at the current exchange rate) in preparation for its roll-out mid-2016.
Lacell board chairperson Farook Sattar, whose company has paid Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) K600 million ($1.1 million)for the licence and spectrum, also said it is set to create 1 000 jobs.
Macra officially handed over the licence to Lacell on Monday evening at Protea Ryalls Hotel in Blantyre, making Lacell the fourth mobile company to be licenced after operational TNM and Airtel, and Celcom, which was licenced, but is yet to roll out.
In an interview at the function, Sattar said by paying Macra fully (in foreign currency) for the licence and spectrum, the company has demonstrated commitment to invest significant sums to enhance telecommunications potential for Malawi to roll out.
Addressing guests that included chief executive officers (CEOs) from different companies, Sattar said the telecommunications market in Malawi lags behind in development compared to other markets in Africa and elsewhere.
In this regard, he said: “We thank Macra for entrusting us to play a role in accelerating industry development in terms of network coverage, quality of service and introduction of new services.
“It is a challenge to come in at a later stage in a market where big market competitors already exist.
“However, we feel we will be able to bring significant value and innovations to the consumers of Malawi.”
Macra director general Godfrey Itaye, in an interview, said the investment was commendable, adding the amount Lacell paid for the licence and spectrum in foreign currency was a big boost to the country’s economy.
In his speech earlier, Itaye said Lacell’s move to pay in full demonstrated the company’s zeal to enter the local telecommunications market.
He said Macra was hopeful that the coming in of Lacell, in addition to the existing mobile phone service providers, would help in serving the people of Malawi and bridging the digital divide.
In July this year, The Nation reported that Macra’s award of the five-year licence to Lacell Private Limited stirred controversy as the regulator had allegedly bypassed its parent ministry—Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education—and Attorney General’s office in the process.