MTN, Airtel Face Criminal Case in Zambia Over Service Quality

Zambia started criminal proceedings against all three mobile-phone operators in Africa’s biggest copper producer, saying they failed to meet minimum quality standards.

Deteriorating service by the local units of Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI), MTN Group Ltd. (MTN) and state-owned Zambia Telecommunication Co. has made communications difficult, doing business harder, and led to a public outcry, Lusaka-based Zambia Information and Technology Authority said in an e-mailed statement today.

“The authority has resolved to take remedial measures relating to enforcement of quality of service in order to protect public interest,” it said.

New Delhi-based Airtel is Zambia’s biggest mobile provider with more 4.6 million subscribers, while South Africa’s MTN had 3.47 million subscribers by Sept. 30. The country, with a population of 13.8 million, has a mobile penetration rate of nearly 63 percent, according to a report by Deloitte and GSMA, a mobile-operator industry group. Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, GSMA said.

Chabuka Kawesha, a spokesman for Airtel Zambia, declined to immediately comment when called on his mobile phone in Lusaka, as did Kennedy Mambwe, a spokesman for Zamtel. Rich Mkhondo, MTN’s spokesman, also declined to immediately comment when contacted by phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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