April 8, 2009 / 4:28 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Malawi awards 2 more mobile operator licenses

* Additional licenses to minimise costs

* Fines for failure to roll out services (Adds details)

BLANTYRE, April 8 (Reuters) - Malawi has awarded two more mobile phone operating licenses to consortiums of local and international firms, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority said on Wednesday.

The southern African country already has three operators with Kuwait-owned Zain (ZAIN.KW) leading the pack with over 1 million subscribers, followed by Telekom Networks Malawi, partly owned by the Malawian government.

Thengo Maloya, chairman of the regulatory authority, said in a statement that La Cell Private Limited and Expresso Telecom Group Limited, consortiums comprising local and international firms — have been awarded the latest licenses.

He said the additional operators were meant to help bring down the cost of doing business in Malawi and to improve the quality of telecommunications services.

“We are not happy with the quality of service we are receiving from the current operators ... and that’s why we are want more to create a competitive environment,” Maloya later told Reuters.

The regulator also announced new penalties of $100,000 per annum for firms that fail to roll out services as promised, as well as a $50,000 fine for poor service. (Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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