Another setback for Uzi Zambia

Another setback for Uzi Zambia

Speculation mounts as officials and the company debate the launch of a network.

Amid increasing speculation that Uzi Zambia will have its mobile license revoked, the government claims the operator is facing financial challenges that has delayed the launch of its network and has requested more time.

Uzi Zambia, whose major shareholder is Unitel International Holdings B.V registered in the Netherlands, secured a network licence in March 2018, valid for 15 years, to compete against MTN Zambia, Airtel Zambia and Zamtel.

However, the operator failed to launch by December 2018 and this was followed by a series of extensions by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).

In January 2019, Uzi confirmed it would launch operation in February 2019 and said the delay was the result of equipment being properly installed and tested.

The company also vowed to make an initial investment of US$350-million.

But there has been a fresh delay and Misheck Lungu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communication recently confirmed that that Uzi is "in the process of mobilising funds" in readiness to start operations as the country's fourth operator.

Lungu was quoted in the local Daily Mail newspaper saying, "Uzi has requested for an extension to enable it sought out some hitches."

However, according to a report in the Zambia Watchdog publication, Uzi failed to adhere to requirements specified in the licence that was given by ZICTA. The publication quotes an inside source as having said the Ministry of Transport and Communication is in looking for another operator.

The Minister of Transport and Communications Mutotwe Kafwaya has told another local publication, The Zambian Observer, that the government is in talks with Uzi on whether it was going ahead with operations in Zambia or not, "noting that setting up a mobile service required huge investment."

Andrew Makanya, a telecom analyst at Computer Association of Zambia said it was clear that something had gone wrong in the process of setting up the network.

"We understand that Uzi has been asking ZICTA to relax some of the licence conditions but that the regulator has maintained its position."

Uzi has to date not responded to requests for comment.