Malawian service provider Nyasa Mobile Limited (NML) is said, according to a number of reports, to be partnering the vast Vodafone Group in a deal that will lead to the rollout of the country’s third operator. However, Vodafone has clarified that its role is mainly a consulting one.
A Vodafone spokesperson told Developing Telecoms: “Vodafone’s Partner Markets team has been supplying services to Nyasa Mobile to aid its launch in Malawi. These services include market assessment, operational support and network planning. This is purely a consultancy arrangement and Vodafone has no equity in Nyasa Mobile.”
The Nation newspaper says that a team from Vodafone reportedly visited Malawi recently to meet government officials and assess the business environment.
NML chairperson Konrad Buckle has been widely quoted as suggesting that the new operator’s planned rollout will take place in phases towards the end of the year, though it’s not clear when it will be complete.
Buckle has also claimed the involvement of some major direct foreign investors along with the consultancy arrangement with Vodafone. The upshot, in theory, should be mobile telephony services at competitive prices, which, Buckle has said, “has not been possible in the past 20 years”. He added that the new operator hopes in the next five years to create 400 direct jobs and over 1,000 indirectly.
NML describes itself as “a disruptive third mobile network operator in Malawi committed to delivering financial inclusion and social economic growth, and driving internet penetration to deliver a backbone for economic growth”.
Assuming the new network fulfils its aims of offering competition and cheaper services it won’t be too soon for most Malawians. According to TeleGeography's CommsUpdate, the market is characterised by high tariffs and poor service quality. Mobile penetration was under 60% at the end of March this year.