Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has gone ahead to award a mobile telecommunication service provider licence to Lacell Private Limited, which failed in its bid for a similar licence in 2008 as they did not meet the criteria.
The renegotiation process to give licence to Lacell Private Limited was imposed on Macra board by government, Nyasa Times understands.
Minister of Information KondwanI Nankhuma reportedly ordered Macra to follow government directives for Macra to “ re-open licence negotiations with Lacell Private Limited” according to the minutes signed by Macra board chairperson Lisa Makawa and Board secretary James Kaphale.
The minutes say Nankhumwa urged the members to discuss the directives and advise Government on the way forward.
“The Board also acknowledged that there is a recent directive on re-opening negotiations with Lacell Private Limited. The Board informed the Hon. Minister that it has approved re-opening of negotiations with Lacell Private Limited considering government’s position on the ossue”, read the minutes.
Nankhumwa confirmed attending Macra board meeting in Lilongwe but rejected claims that he bulldozed the two issues.
“I did not give directives. That is wrong. That agenda came from the Legal Committee of the board. Nobody can bring issues to the plenary without any background. They would make sense if they said I directed the legal committee of the board which also never happened,” Nankhumwa is quoted saying.
In 2008 the Macra board looked at the bids of six companies in an international tender process.
During the bid Milcom scored highly with 90.5 percent, followed by Expresso Telecom Group of Dubai which scored 82 %.
Then VivaCell MTS Consortium from British Virgin Islands scored 81%, Lebanon-based multi-national telecommunication provider Comium Group scored 75%, Lacell of Singapore got 60 % and Forward Ranchers got 60%.
However, despite Lacell, which uses the brand name Smart Mobile, scoring lowly, the board was being “bulldozed” to allow it roll out its services.
Macra boss Andrew Kumbatira has however said Lacell linked to Farook Sattar is being awarded “based on current information.”
He said the other frontrunners were either disqualified or pulled out.
The other cellular network operators in the Southern African country are Airtel Malawi, a subsidiary of Pan-African mobile operator Balti, and TNM, which is owned by Malawian conglomerate Press Corporation.
The two established mobile phone network service providers share a market of over 1, 5-million subscribers, and the Malawi government intends granting further mobile phone network licences in order to increase the number of phone users in the country, which has a 13-million-strong population.
Two other telecommunication operators, G-Mobile and Celcom have failed to roll out.
Celcom has a licence awarded under the terms of dual fixed and mobile telephony provision, which when it was awarded in May 2011 it was required to launch services within 18 months.
The rollout deadline was subsequently postponed twice, with the latest extension due to expire on28 July 2015 ; if Celcom fails to launch its network by that date, then it will face the revocation of its operating licence.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :