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LUSAKA, March 9 (Reuters) – Mobile operator MTN Zambia plans to invest $95 million towards upgrades to double its subscriber base, Chief Executive Officer Per Christer Eriksson said Wednesday.

 

MTN is the second-biggest mobile phone operator in the southern African country, with a subscriber base of 700,000 translating into a 15 per cent share of the market.

 

Kuwaiti mobile phone firm Zain (ZAIN.KW) has 78 percent market share, while the government-owned Cell-Z has seven percent.

 

“We are looking at growing the business by double this year through purchasing new equipment and investing in support systems to improve our network,” Eriksson told reporters.

 

“The total cost of our expansion programme for this year is about $95 million and we are looking at increasing our market share to about 30 percent,” he added.

 

The expansion programme for this year would be concentrated on network upgrades in western and north western Zambia, he said.

 

The new investment would augment the $80 million that MTN Zambia — a subsidiary of South Africa’s MTN (MTNJ.J), the continent’s largest mobile operator by subscription — invested in 2008.

 

Eriksson said the firm had also subsidized its tariffs by 90 percent to grow its customer base.

 

Analysts say subscription to mobile telephones is growing in north western Zambia following a big migration by people seeking employment at two major copper mines.

 

Eriksson however said MTN Zambia had been affected by the global crisis which has devastated the vast copper mining sector, the country’s lifeblood, resulting in over 12,000 job losses.

 

“We don’t have a drop in business, but we have experienced slower growth but our overall subscriber base remains healthy,” he said. (Writing by Shapi Shacinda; Editing by Rupert Winchester)

 

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