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The privatization of Malawi Telecommunications (MTL) in 2006 was a necessary step in bringing improvement to telecommunications services. However, penetration rates in all sectors of the telecommunications market are still well below regional averages.

Licenses & Regulations

Malawi’s national telecommunications regulator is Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra).

Fixed Lines

Competition for MTL has finally arrived in the fixed-line sector in early 2010 with the second operator Access Communications (ACL), already licensed in 2007. The company may eventually emerge as another mobile operator, since the CDMA2000 technology it uses supports full mobility. The fixed-line sector itself has seen a revival following MTL's privatization and the introduction of CDMA2000 fixed-wireless services.

In 2008, the number of main lines in use was 236,000 with a fixed-line subscribership of 2 per 100 persons.


The mobile-cellular services are expanding but network coverage is limited and is based around the main urban areas. The mobile-cellular subscribership is approaching 15 per 100 persons.

With the imminent launch of the third network, G-Mobile, and the licensing of a fourth in 2010, the mobile sector is set for a boost when it finally moves beyond the duopoly held for many years by Zain (72% of market share) and TNM (28% of market share), the mobile arm of fixed-line incumbent MTL.

As of 2010, Malawi has 2.585 million mobile subscribers.

Mobile Operators

Average Revenue per User (ARPU)

The average revenue per user (ARPU) is expected to continue its rapid decline approaching US$5. Zain had registered an ARPU rate of US$8 in September 2009.


The Internet sector is reasonably competitive with 15 licensed ISPs, but the limited availability and high cost of international bandwidth has held back growth and kept broadband prices high. Several ISPs are rolling out WiMAX wireless broadband networks, and the CDMA2000 networks of MTL and ACL support broadband speeds with the EV-DO technology being used. Third generation (3G) mobile services based on W-CDMA/HSPA technology were launched in December 2009.

A national fibre backbone is being implemented, and the country is set to gain access to international submarine fibre optic cables for the first time in 2010 when a transit link via neighboring countries is 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.

As of 2009, there were 741 internet hosts and 316,000 internet users (2.1% of the population). In the same year, the number of broadband internet users was 3,400.

Key Figures

  • Number of main lines in use: 236,000 (2008)
  • Number of mobile subscribers: 2,585,000 (2010)
  • Number of internet users: 316,000 (2009)
  • Number of broadband internet subscribers: 3,400 (2009)
  • Number of ISPs: 15 (2009)
  • Number of internet hosts: 741 (2009)
  • Internet penetration rate: 2.1% (2009)

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