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Malawi leans on USF in rural mobile comms rollout

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Malawi , 16 Mar 2020
Industry regulator confirms plans to establish telecommunications towers in latest rural-communications project.
Industry regulator confirms plans to establish telecommunications towers in latest rural-communications project.

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) plans to roll out a mobile network, leveraging the Universal Services Fund (USF), to ensure at least 2G connectivity in under-serviced rural areas.

According to MACRA head of universal services Emily Khamula Lungu 16% of Malawians live in areas that are under-served by mobile phone coverage of any kind.

“Service providers are more interested in making quick returns of their investment and so they invest more in urban areas and in the process this has resulted in the side-lining of the rural masses,” said Lungu.

MACRA intends to roll out communications towers in these regions, to be used by all operators - including Airtel Malawi and Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL), at a fee.

The fees will be paid to the regulator and directed towards the USF, in addition to revenue from government grants.

MACRA is carrying out an assessment and has not yet confirmed how many towers would be constructed or how much the project will cost.

MTL chief commercial officer Gladson Kuyeri is quoted as having said the USF is important to operators because it is expensive to roll out networks in areas where there are few users.

Kuyeri added that with the USF in place, the telecommunications industry will be able to offer services in areas where a single operator rolling out infrastructure is unlikely to secure a return on investment.

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