Malawi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

Executive summary

Malawi’s network operators adjust to SIM card registration deadline

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed and poorest countries globally and has suffered from inconsistent economic growth in recent years. Businesses endured high inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency in 2015 and 2016, though the economy has since rebounded, with GDP expected to have grown 3.5% in 2018, and the currency has stabilised. These factors have enabled telecom operators to fund network upgrades, with the result that considerable investment has been channelled into fixed-line and mobile infrastructure upgrades in recent years.

Mobile penetration remains low in comparison to the regional average and so there are considerable opportunities for further growth, particularly in the mobile broadband sector. TMN was the first operator to launch an LTE-A service, followed by Airtel Malawi in January 2018. The market remains a duopoly between these two operators given the failure of G-Mobile and Celcom Malawi to launch services. However, there is expectation that Lacell Private (operating under the Smart Mobile brand) will provide some competition and encourage a reduction in end-user prices. In a bid to discourage crime the regulator has imposed SIM card registration, effective for all new cards since July 2018.

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. The converged licensing regime was revised and came into force in September 2016.

The internet sector is reasonably competitive, with about 50 licensed ISPs, though the limited availability and high cost of international bandwidth has held back growth and kept broadband access prices among the highest in the region. DSL services are available. The incumbent in late 2017 closed down the CDMA network, while the WiMAX component was closed down in early 2018.

A national fibre backbone is nearing completion, while the country recently gained access to international submarine fibre optic cables via a transit link from neighbouring countries.

Key developments:

  • New SIM cards required registration process;
  • Airtel Malawi launches LTE services;
  • Mobile Termination Rates begin glide path reduction through to 2020; MTL switches off its CDMA network;
  • World Bank provides $72.4 million to help Malawi engage in the digital economy;
  • Regulators of Zambia and Malawi sign MoU related to cooperative efforts in the telecom and broadcasting sectors;
  • TNM boasts 46% increase in net profit for H1 2018;
  • TNM launches LTE-A services;
  • National Fibre Backbone Project nears completion;
  • Reserve Bank of Malawi reports on m-payment progress;
  • Regulator develops Universal Access Fund (UAF) to deliver mobile services to rural areas;
  • White space spectrum trials to increase broadband availability;
  • Report updates include recent market developments, operator data to Q2 2018.

Companies mentioned in this report:

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

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
  • 3. Country overview
  • 4. Telecommunications market
    • 4.1 Market analysis
  • 5. Regulatory environment
    • 5.1 Malawi Communications Act 1998
    • 5.2 Malawi Communications Act 2016
    • 5.3 ICT Policy
    • 5.4 Regulatory authority
    • 5.5 Telecom sector liberalisation
    • 5.6 Privatisation
    • 5.7 Converged licensing regime
    • 5.8 Universal service
    • 5.9 Interconnection
  • 6. Fixed network operators
    • 6.1 Malawi Telecommunications (MTL)
    • 6.2 Access Communications
  • 7. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 7.1 Overview of the national telecom network
    • 7.2 International infrastructure
      • 7.2.1 Submarine cable networks
  • 8. Fixed-line broadband market
    • 8.1 Introduction and statistical overview
    • 8.2 Broadband statistics
    • 8.3 Fixed-line broadband technologies
  • 9. Digital economy
  • 10. Mobile market
    • 10.1 Market analysis
    • 10.2 Mobile statistics
      • 10.2.1 General statistics
      • 10.2.2 Mobile broadband
      • 10.2.3 Forecasts – mobile subscribers – 2019; 2021; 2023
    • 10.3 Regulatory issues
      • 10.3.1 SIM card registration
      • 10.3.2 Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs)
    • 10.4 Major mobile operators
      • 10.4.1 TNM
      • 10.4.2 Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain, Celtel)
      • 10.4.3 G-Mobile (GAIN)
      • 10.4.4 Celcom Malawi
      • 10.4.5 Lacell Private (Smart Mobile)
    • 10.5 Mobile Infrastructure
      • 10.5.1 4G (LTE)
      • 10.5.2 3G
    • 10.6 Mobile data
      • 10.6.1 SMS
    • 10.7 Mobile applications and services
      • 10.7.1 m-money
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Top Level Country Statistics and Telco Authorities - Malawi – 2018 (e)
  • Table 2 – Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 1999 - 2009
  • Table 3 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 4 – International bandwidth – 2001 - 2016
  • Table 5 – Historic - Internet users and penetration rate – 1999 - 2009
  • Table 6 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 7 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2003 - 2018
  • Table 8 – Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Malawi – 1999 - 2009
  • Table 9 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Malawi – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 10 – Active mobile broadband subscribers and penetration in Malawi – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 11 – Forecasts – mobile subscribers in Malawi – 2019; 2021; 2023
  • Table 12 – TNM financial results – 2009 – 2018
  • Table 13 – TNM ARPU ($) – 2003 - 2013
  • Table 14 – TNM ARPU (MWK) – 2014 - 2016
  • Table 15 – TNM mobile subscribers – 2012 - 2017
  • Table 16 – TNM mobile bases stations in service – 2014 - 2016
  • Table 17 – Airtel Malawi mobile subscribers – 2016 - 2017
  • Chart 1 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity in Malawi – 2005 – 2018
  • Chart 2 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2005 – 2018
  • Chart 3 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2002 - 2018
  • Chart 4 – TNM financial results – 2009 – 2018

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