Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Malawi: G-Mobile in US$25 m network roll out

Troubled G-Mobile, a mobile telecommunications company that intends to become Malawi's third, has announced it is rolling out a US$25 million network before the end of the year. The company was last month ordered to pay millions after it failed to roll out on time.
Chief Executive Officer, Peter Davies, in the commercial city of Blantyre he company is expected to invest more than US$150 million in the coming three years.

"We will be up and running before the end of this year. We mean to be the network of choice," he said, adding G-Mobile is earmarking a workforce of 60 in its first year, outsourcing most of its activities.

Davies challenged G-Mobile will establish a high quality service to distinguish it from its competitors. Two other mobile telecommunications companies, Zain Malawi, to fully rebrand to new owner Barti Airtel, and Tnm are in operation in Malawi.

"To date in Malawi, an array of factors, including logistical difficulties, has created a high rate of dropped calls and other service issues with established operators. G Mobile’s ethos is to raise the quality of services seen in the market while at the same time maintaining competitive pricing,” he explained, adding fair competition will help bring down call costs on the marketplace.

He said his company is looking forward to effectively competing with current market players to bring down the cost of making calls in Malawi.

The G-Mobile boss added Malawi has a relatively low penetration of cellular phones compared to other countries, and has one of the highest cost of calls in the world.

"This is a great opportunity for G-Mobile to make a significant difference to Malawi business and its citizens, assisting with socio economic development across the country,” he told the press.

Early this year, the company engaged Telkom Management Services of South Africa to plan and implement the network rollout, and later engaged ZTE to supply equipment.

Weiss+ Appetito will supply the company's environmental infrastructure.

G-Mobile is currently discussing with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) on reducing a penalty fee of US$6.9 million it was charged for failing to roll out on time.

The regulatory body imposed the penalty on May 20 and gave G Mobile who had been granted the country's third telecommunications licence as a cell phone operator 30 days to pay up.

G-Mobile Phone Company was given until March 20 to roll out its network or have its licence revoked. The company failed even after Macra extended the duration to April 12.

G Mobile Phone Company challenged the issue in the High Court in the northern region Mzuzu city where they were granted an injunction restraining Macra from penalising them them and also give leave for judicial review.

According to court documents, High court judge Lovemore Chikopa on July 12, heard the arguments for and against the grant of leave and the continuation of the injunction from both G Mobile and Macra lawyers.

While ruling that leave for judicial review and the injunction should be maintained, Chikopa said his ruling that G Mobile sought an extension of time in which to roll out its network and further claimed that Macra agreed to extend the deadline on condition that G Mobile paid a penalty in the sum of $6.950, 000 by June 19, 2010.

Chikopa said Macra argued against both the grant of leave and injunction saying there are no issues between them and G Mobile as the decision complained of is contained in a privileged communication that should not be even before the court.

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