The government of Zambia has confirmed it will advertise a bid for a fourth mobile phone operator before the end of the year.
A new licensing framework for the country's telecommunications industry was approved in April to facilitate a new fourth operator.
The country's fourth license is expected to be issued to a successful bidder in the first quarter of 2018 for an initial period of 15 years.
Misheck Lungu, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Transport, said the government, via the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), will float an open tender.
However, there are strong indications from the market that Vodafone Zambia will emerge as the successful bidder.
Lungu said three statutory instruments (SIs) for the establishment of the fourth operator have been drafted and approved, while technical aspects are being finalised.
He added that ZICTA will advertise the bid once this process is completed.
"The successful bidder will be mandated to provide domestic and international services which the current three service providers are offering," said Lungu.
With the expected entry of the fourth operator, the government anticipates a more competitive telecom sector and predicts an increase in investment in network expansion and backbone infrastructure as operators innovate to survive.
Authorities also expect a significant reduction in the cost of communication and an improvement in service delivery.
Zambia's mobile market has 12 million subscribers out of the population of 15 million people.
The country's telecom market is dominated by MTN Zambia which has close to 6 million subscribers, followed by Airtel Zambia while Zamtel is the smallest operator with only 2 million customers.