Find Telecommunication expertise in Malawi
Malawi’s telecommunications and internet industry is recovering following two years of poor economic performance in 2011 and 2012. The current state of the industry is relatively poor compared to most African countries, with high prices and low penetration levels. Economic difficulties have hindered network upgrades, but the recent infrastructural developments put in place should see an improvement.
Last recorded in 2008, Malawi’s telecommunications sector contributed 3.42% to its overall GDP (Trading Economics). The most recent figure from 2002 suggests approximately 3,218 employees made up the industry at that time (EconStats).
The main fixed operators are Malawi Telecommunications (MTL) and Access Communications (ACL) The mobile sector is dominated by Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain) and Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM). MTL owns a majority stake in TNM. Both have launched 3G networks. A third company called G-mobile tried and failed to launch its own operational services in 2013.
The government seems committed to promoting greater privatisation. To boost market competition, the Malawian government has implemented a converged licensing regime which allows crossover between mobile and fixed telecom providers. In 2005 the government also privatised MTL through the Privatisation Commission, but retained ownership of 20% of the company (MTL, 2013).
The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, which the Malawian government created as an independent body designed to improve the telecommunications sector, regulates the industry. It attributes licenses to telecom companies such as ACL and Celcom Ltd, and retains the right to take licenses away, as was seen with G Mobile in May 2013.
Malawi Net is the primary ISP in the country, with 14 other licensed ISPs including the above mobile companies. However, because of a lack of infrastructure and the high cost of international bandwidth, there are few broadband subscriptions (see infrastructure tab). There is much room for growth, with a national fibre optic backbone and plans for a submarine fibre optic connection in development, which will “drive down the cost of international bandwidth and deliver a boost to the broadband market” (Budde report, 2013).
The national infrastructure is very much in the early stages of development. There are 4 landlines, 305 mobile subscriptions, 0 fixed broadband subscriptions, and 35 mobile broadband subscriptions per 1,000 people of the population (2014). Data recorded in 2013 shows that 4.4% of the population are internet users, which includes 2.8 kbps of international bandwidth (World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14). This ranks Malawi 125th, 145th and 135th for fixed telephone lines, mobile penetration and internet usage respectively.