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., MTN Group Ltd. 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.

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