Zambia is set to license fourth mobile operator, should Zimbabwe follow suit?


Zambia has had three mobile operators and like Econet in Zimbabwe, MTN has been the dominant mobile operator in the country albeit not at Econet’s scale. The two countries have similar population sizes with 2016 estimates placing Zambia at about 15.5m and Zimbabwe at 14.5m. There are many other similarities in the demographics of the two countries which make for interesting reading.

The Zambian minister of transport and communications, Brian Mushimba said that the market analysis they did supports the fact that they can have a fourth and possibly a fifth licensee in the country. All while they only have a million more people than Zimbabwe.

When you consider that the Zambian population is younger than the Zimbabwean one you find that the number of adults (potential customers) is quite similar in the two countries. There are actually more active subscribers in Zimbabwe than Zambia, marginally but still.


Zambia is seeking bidders for that fourth mobile network licence and the new carrier could be in place in the next six to twelve months. The auction is open to local and foreign bidders alike. Mr Mushimba said communication costs in the country were rather high and the hope is that the increased competition would drive prices down.

In Zimbabwe, Potraz did their own analysis and concluded that we cannot support a fourth mobile operator (not counting Telone who have a mobile network licence but are not using it). Why? They cited limited spectrum among other things.

If Potraz is to be believed we can not and should not license a new mobile operator in Zimbabwe. It seems our government’s stance on licensing anything media and communications related is there for all to see. This is not to say Potraz is wrong in their analysis but a trend is becoming apparent.

Licensing a new mobile operator is no guarantee that the added competition would lead to lower prices for consumers. Some new problems may arise but some benefits will come from it too. We sorely need more competition in the mobile telephony market in this country.

Let us know in the comments below if you think three is enough as Potraz says or if you believe we would benefit from a new mobile network licensee in Zimbabwe.

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