Fifty-four international firms have expressed interest to run the newly-established Open Connect Limited (OCL), a Press Corporation Limited (PCL) subsidiary to manage the fibre optic cable (FOC) business.
OCL will join a growing list of the dual-listed conglomerate’s subsidiaries that include National Bank of Malawi, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and TNM plc, among others.
OCL is an open access company for all operators, which was formed following the unbundling of fixed phone business in MTL.
As part of the unbundling, the FOC was transferred to OCL from MTL.
Speaking in an interview last week, OCL chairperson Mathews Chikaonda said the company is determined to change the face of Internet connectivity and high speed data transmission from where all telecommunication companies in Malawi will be tapping from.
He said that at the moment, the company is now doing the last connectivity on the western side of Malawi through Zamtel of Zambia to the undersea cables in the Atlantic Ocean to United States of America (USA).
He said: “There is a lot of interest from international companies to invest in Malawi. We hired Ernest and Young, a London-based international transaction advisory firm on the selection.
“In the next two weeks, we should be able to select the potential partner from the 54 international companies. With more players that can come without being prohibited by the cost of infrastructure, competition should be able to bring down the Internet tariffs.”
Chikaonda said the company, which was borne out of MTL, will also invest in metro rings across the country, starting from main cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre.
However, he said the absence of telecommunication access in the city codes has negatively impacted on Internet access in the country.
“We will soon be engaging authorities on the possibility of including telecommunication access apart from water and electricity in buildings, which should be able to increase uptake of Internet,” he said.
Malawi, like many countries in Africa, has historically had underdeveloped communications infrastructure characterised by high charges, low penetration rates and other challenges in service provision, which contribute to high cost of doing business, limited innovation and poor information flow in the country.
In an earlier interview, ICT expert Maxwell Phiri said that low Internet access has negatively affected the country’s efforts in accelerating research in the education sector, increasing access to the digital world as well as affecting fast flow of communication in businesses. n