By Michael Malakata
Following the deregulation of the country’s international gateway, mobile operator Zain Zambia has launched a borderless mobile phone network that allows users traveling in 13 African countries where Zain has a presence to call without paying roaming charges.
The borderless network, dubbed “One Network,” allows Zambian customers in countries including Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi and Madagascar to call at local rates and without paying roaming charges. The service also allows customers in any of these countries to purchase and recharge their mobile phones with recharge cards bought in Zambia or any other country where Zain has a presence.
The service was already operational in many countries in Africa and the Middle East, but Zain could not launch the service in Zambia because it lacked access to the country’s international gateway. The Zambian government for some time had declined to deregulate the gateway, claiming doing so would put the security of the country at risk.
Zain Zambia Managing Director Fayaz King said the One Network is part of the company’s strategy of ensuring that the customers in countries where Zain operates are connected through one borderless network. The initiative will also play a crucial role in helping to promote and boost cross-border trade in the east, central and west Africa regions, King said.
The Zambian government finally allowed all service providers in the country to own and operate their own international gateways after granting them licenses early this year.
“The liberalization of the international gateway by the Zambian government has played a significant role in the launch of the One Network, King said at the launch of the network last week.
Zambia’s minister of finance and national planning, Situmbeko Musokotwane, said the Zambian government gave licenses to individual operators so that they can be innovative and bring down the high cost of communications in the country.
“In fact we reduced the cost of acquiring a gateway license from US$12 million to $350,000 in order to stimulate mobile communication among Zambians,” Musokotwane said on Oct. 8 in Parliament during a national budget presentation.