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Unitel Lands Zambia's Fourth Mobile License

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The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has awarded two licenses (one national, one international) to Unitel that will enable it to become the country’s fourth mobile operator.

Unitel, the dominant operator in Angola, has pledged to invest $350 million and create 450 jobs as it aims to compete with the three existing operators -- MTN, Airtel and state-owned Zamtel.

The award of the licenses to Unitel has attracted attention, as it is part-owned (25% stake) by Isabel Dos Santos, who is believed to be the richest woman in Africa, worth around US$2.4 billion, and daughter of the former president of Angola, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

Unitel is under greater competitive pressure in Angola following the recent elections, which resulted in João Gonçalves Lourenço replacing Jose Eduardo Dos Santos as president.

Lourenço's team quickly announced plans to introduce greater competition to the communications and media sectors. (See Angola to Get New Operator, Part Privatize Incumbent.)

So now Unitel is seeking other markets to conquer. But the Zambian market offers only limited prospects: The country has a total population of only 16-17 million, of which about 75% already have a mobile subscription. MTN is the market leader, with about half of all mobile users, while Airtel commands about 40% market share, leaving roughly 10% to Zamtel. ZICTA, however, believes there is room for further competition.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading for Connecting Africa.

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