* One British and two African firms bidding
* Tender extended from Nov 24 to Dec 18
* Winner to be selected by June next year
LUSAKA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - One British and two African companies are bidding to establish a fourth mobile phone voice service provider in Zambia in a tender closing next month, communications minister Brian Mushimba said late on Tuesday.
Zambia approved a law in June allowing more mobile phone voice service providers to boost competition.
The tender was supposed to close last week but was extended to Dec. 18 because some of the bidders needed more time, Mushimba said.
“Some of the interested parties came on board very late and for them to give a comprehensive report, they need to get on the ground and travel across the country,” Mushimba said.
Mushimba said the communications regulator was expected to select the winner by June 2018.
“We hope that the quality of service will improve and the telecommunications companies will compete on pricing,” he said. Zambia has over 12 million mobile phone service subscribers representing a penetration rate of almost 75 percent, the latest government statistics show.
“What we are asking for from the bidders is investment in growing the network even in rural areas,” Mushimba said.
South Africa’s MTN, India’s Bharti Airtel and state-owned Zamtel are currently the only mobile phone operators offering voice services in Zambia. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Amrutha Gayathri)