Malawi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

Executive summary

Malawi’s telecom sector pricing among the most expensive in the region

Although Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries, GDP growth has been strong in recent years, with the exception of 2012 when growth fell to 1.9%. GDP growth recovered in 2013, reaching 5.2%, and was expected to have increased to 5.7% for 2014. Telcos have been affected by the currency devaluation imposed in mid-2013, which has delayed their ability to fund network upgrades. In addition, the government in mid-2013 instituted a tax on internet services, the additional cost of services being passed on to consumers.

Mobile penetration remains very low in comparison to the African average. This allows for considerable opportunities for further growth. The market remains a duopoly between Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain) and Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM), given the failure of the third and fourth mobile operators, G-Mobile and Celcom Malawi, to launch services.

To encourage additional market competition, the government has followed in the footsteps of several of its neighbours and introduced a converged licensing regime which allows the two fixed-line operators, Malawi Telecommunications (MTL) and Access Communications (ACL) to enter the mobile market as well. Both operate CDMA-based fixed-wireless networks which support full mobility and broadband access using EV-DO technology.

The internet sector is reasonably competitive with 22 licensed ISPs, though the limited availability and high cost of international bandwidth has held back growth and has kept broadband access prices among the highest in the region. DSL services are available, and several ISPs continue to extend their WiMAX wireless broadband footprints. The two incumbent mobile networks have launched third generation (3G) mobile services based on UMTS/HSPA technology.

A national fibre backbone is being implemented, and the country recently gained access to international submarine fibre optic cables for the first time when a transit link via neighbouring countries was completed. Provided a suitable regulatory regime is put in place, this will bring down the cost of international bandwidth and deliver a boost to the broadband market.

Estimated market penetration rates in Malawi’s telecoms sector – end - 2015

Market
Penetration rate
Mobile
38%
Fixed
1.9%
Internet
6.8%

(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)

Key developments:

  • TNM boasts 12% growth in mobile subscriber base for the first half of 2015;
  • Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology planning to enter the market as technology vendor and telco;
  • Regulator prepares to award mobile licence to Lacell Private following failure of Celcom to launch services;
  • Regulator proposes Universal Access Fund (UAF) to deliver mobile services to rural areas;
  • SIM card registration takes effect;
  • Broadband plan developed with ITU technical assistance;
  • TMN reports strong revenue recovery;
  • Airtel Money registers over 500,000 users, receives ten-year licence renewal;
  • Converged licensing regime expected to boost competition;
  • National fibre rollout;
  • White space spectrum trials to increase broadband availability;
  • SimbaNeET contracted to build and operate a fibre-optic cable linking Lilongwe with Tanzania;
  • Report updates include recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Malawi Telecommunications Ltd (MTL); Access Communications Ltd (ACL); Bharti Airtel (Zain, Celtel); Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM); G-Mobile (GAIN); Celcom Ltd; Escom; MalawiNet; MTL Online; Skyband;Globe Internet; Broadmax; Burco.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
    • 2.1 Country overview
  • 3. Telecommunications market
    • 3.1 Market analysis
  • 4. Regulatory environment
    • 4.1 Malawi Communications Act 1998
      • 4.1.1 Malawi Communications Amendment Act
    • 4.2 ICT Policy
    • 4.3 Regulatory authority
      • 4.3.1 Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA)
    • 4.4 Telecom sector liberalisation in Malawi
    • 4.5 Converged licensing regime 2011
    • 4.6 Universal service
    • 4.7 Interconnection
  • 5. Fixed network operators in Malawi
    • 5.1 Malawi Telecommunications (MTL)
      • 5.1.1 Privatisation
      • 5.1.2 Fixed-line statistics
      • 5.1.3 Network infrastructure
      • 5.1.4 CDMA fixed-wireless system (Liberty Phone)
    • 5.2 Access Communications
  • 6. National fibre backbone infrastructure
    • 6.1 MTL
    • 6.2 Escom
  • 7. International infrastructure
    • 7.1 Submarine cable networks
  • 8. Broadband market
    • 8.1 Overview
      • 8.1.1 Internet subscriber statistics
    • 8.2 Malawi’s ISP market
      • 8.2.1 MalawiNet
      • 8.2.2 MTL Online
      • 8.2.3 Skyband
      • 8.2.4 Globe Internet
    • 8.3 VoIP
    • 8.4 Broadband infrastructure
      • 8.4.1 ADSL
      • 8.4.2 EV-DO
      • 8.4.3 White-space spectrum
      • 8.4.4 WiMAX, WiFi
  • 9. Mobile communications
    • 9.1 Overview of Malawi’s mobile market
    • 9.2 Mobile statistics
      • 9.2.1 Subscribers
      • 9.2.2 Mobile broadband
      • 9.2.3 Forecasts – mobile market – 2014; 2017
    • 9.3 Major mobile operators
      • 9.3.1 TNM
      • 9.3.2 Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain, Celtel)
      • 9.3.3 G-Mobile (GAIN)
      • 9.3.4 Celcom Malawi
      • 9.3.5 Lacell Private (Smart Mobile)
    • 9.4 Mobile Infrastructure
      • 9.4.1 SMS
      • 9.4.2 Third Generation (3G)
    • 9.5 Mobile applications and services
      • 9.5.1 M-commerce
  • 10. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics Malawi – 2014 (e)
  • Table 2 – Fixed-line network statistics – 2015 (e)
  • Table 3 – Internet provider statistics – 2015
  • Table 4 – Internet and social media user statistics – 2015 (e)
  • Table 5 – Mobile statistics – 2015 (e)
  • Table 6 – National telecommunications authority
  • Table 7 – MTL financial data – 2011 - 2012
  • Table 8 – Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 1999 - 2004
  • Table 9 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 2005 - 2015
  • Table 10 – International bandwidth – 2001 - 2014
  • Table 11 – Historic - Internet users and penetration rate – 1999 - 2004
  • Table 12 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2005 - 2015
  • Table 13 – Fixed internet subscribers and penetration – 2000 - 2015
  • Table 14 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2003 - 2015
  • Table 15 – Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Malawi – 1999 - 2004
  • Table 16 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Malawi – 2005 - 2015
  • Table 17 – Active mobile broadband subscribers and penetration in Malawi – 2010 - 2015
  • Table 18 – Forecast – mobile subscribers in Malawi – 2014; 2017
  • Table 19 – TNM financial results – 2009 – 2015
  • Table 20 – TNM ARPU – 2003 - 2012
  • Table 21 – TNM mobile subscribers – 2003 - 2014
  • Chart 1 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 2005 – 2015
  • Chart 2 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2005 – 2015
  • Chart 3 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2002 - 2015
  • Chart 4 – TNM financial results – 2009 – 2015

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