Malawi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses
Malawi’s National Fibre Backbone Project nears completion
Malawi is one of the world’s least developed and poorest countries, 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 rebounded in 2017 (with GDP expected to have grown 4.5% in the year) and the currency has stabilised. This had enabled telecom operators fund network upgrades, with the result that considerable investment was channelled to fixed-line and mobile infrastructure upgrades during the year.
Mobile penetration remains low in comparison to the regional average. This allows for considerable opportunities for further growth, particularly in the mobile broadband sector. TMN has launched an LTE-A service while Airtel Malawi is prepping for the launch of its own LTE network in early 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.
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 I CDMA network, while the WiMAX component is expected to be closed down in the first quarter of 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.