Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki


Malawi has basically two major operators:

  • Airtel
  • TNM

There are other small operators who don't have a reasonable coverage. In 2017 Malawi Telecommunications Ltd. (MTL) has begun the phased decommissioning of its CDMA and EVDO network and plans to complete the process by the end of the year.

For Airtel and TMN :

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 900 and 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on TMN and Airtel.

Speed and coverage are pretty modest even for African standards. TMN and airtel actually form a duoply in the country. This led to public protest and even demonstrations on the streets against the two companies in 2015. The national regulator is under pressure to lower prices, improve service or release another license. Because of high cross-network rates, many Malawians have two SIM cards, yet the general mobile penetration rate remains very low at 20% only.

The BBC published a report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2015. Malawians use more than 5,000 K or $12 per month on average for mobile phones. That's 56% of the average monthly income making it one of the most expensive countries in the world for local people to use mobile phones.


Malawi’s Minister of Information, Communication and ICT has revealed that the country finally launched a mandatory SIM registration campaign in June 2017 to prevent the use of mobile phones for criminal purposes. "Everybody who would like to have a telephone number must register with service providers, failing which, one will not be allowed to have a local SIM card," although he didn't disclose when the deadline for the nationwide registration drive will expire. The SIM identification campaign follows the introduction in 2016 of the new Communications Act , which outlines, among other things, the obligations of consumers and service providers concerning the registration of SIM cards. So from now on, be prepared to show your passport at the point of purchase.

By a deadline in October 2018 all SIM cards in Malawi need to be registered now. More than 1 million of unregistered SIMs were deactivated in autumn 2018.



Airtel Malawi (formerly Zain) by Indian Bharti Airtel is still the market leader in the country with slightly more than 50% of the nation's subscribers. Its coverage is unreliable and similar to TNM's (coverage map).

In 2017 Airtel announced a major upgrade to its network and adding 900 MHz 3G. In 2018 4G/LTE services were started in the towns of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.


You get their SIM cards everywhere on the streets and in their shops ( Normally standard SIMs are sold and other sizes need to be cut). Top-up vouchers are sold all over the country for K50, K100, K250, K500, K1000 and K5000.

Data feature packs[]

Default data rate outside of packages is K 5.00 per MB. These Pa Net bundles are offered:

Data Time Price Activation
25 MB 1 day K 100 *301*100#
45 MB K 150 *301*101#
175 MB K 500 *301*128#
1 GB K 1800 *301*129#
80 MB 7 days K 300 *301*110#
175 MB K 600 *301*130#
350 MB K 1000 *301*131#
1 GB K 2500 *301*111#
25 GB 30 days K 12,000 *301*125#
65 GB K 24,000 *301*126#

Check data balance by *304#.

For social media, they offer bundles for Facebook and WhatsApp and special night bundles too:

  • Facebook bundles:
    • 1 day, 30 MB: K 110 - activation: *301*300#
    • 1 week, 90 MB: K 240 - activation: *301*301#
    • 1 month, 800 MB: K 1200 - activation: *301*302#
  • WhatsApp bundles:
    • 1 day, 20 MB: K 70 - activation: *301*200#
    • 1 week, 90 MB, K 240 - activation: *301*201#
    • 1 month, 500 MB, K 560 - activation: *301*202#
  • Twitter bundles:
    • 1 day, 30 MB: K 110 - activation: *301*500#
    • 1 week, 90 MB, K 240 - activation: *301*501#
    • 1 month, 800MB, K 1200 - activation: *301*502#

More information[]



TNM (for Telekom Networks Malawi) is a private local company. They were the first to offer 3G in the country and are considered to be the better choice for data. Together with Airtel they share the market in the country at slightly lower rates: 2G/3G Coverage map.

4G/LTE started in 2016 as first operator in the 4 major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba. TNM is on track to expand the service to the rest of the country and has been expanded to other locations including Limbe, Mangochi, Kasungu, Salima, Mzimba, Balaka, Dwangwa and Thyolo. This service is initially only offered with the TNM Hotspot for subscribers, not for prepaid yet.


Starter sets with SIM cards are available practically everywhere on the streets and in their outlets (list).

Often only standard SIM cards are sold, other sizes need to be cut. Their starter pack is for K 500 and comes with 5 mins, 5 SMS and 5 MB.

Top-up vouchers are sold everywhere. Balance check is #123# <call>. To top up type *111*<voucher PIN># <call>.

Data feature packs[]

Default rate for data outside of packages is K 4.95 per MB. Their packages for data are called Smart Bundles:

Data Period Price Activation
15 MB 1 day K 100 *200*7#
45 MB 1 day K 150 *200*9#
1.1 GB 1 day K 1800 *200*5#
140 MB 7 days K 1200 *200*44#
1 GB 7 days K 2500 *200*55#
175 MB 7 days K 600 *200*10#
512 MB 15 days K 2000 *200*444#
1 GB 31 days K 3500 *200*12#
2 GB 31 days K 5000 *200*13#
4 GB 31 days K 8 000 *200*14#
10 GB 31 days K 15 500 *200*16#
20 GB 31 days K 30 000 *200*17#

For social media access TNM sells these bundles:

  • Facebook bundles:
    • daily, 50 MB, K 110 - activation: *200*2#
    • weekly, 120 MB, K 230 - activation: *200*22#
    • monthly, 1 GB, K 1200 - activation: *200*222#
  • WhatsApp bundles:
    • daily, 40 MB: K 100 - activation: *200*3#
    • weekly, 160 MB: K 300 - activation: *200*33#
    • monthly, 540 MB: K 600 - activation: *200*333#

4G/LTE bundles[]

For their new 4G/LTE they have released monthly bundles of 20 GB to 1 TB that can roll over and are found through this link (click on LTE bundles). 4G/LTE ist still not available on prepaid, but only for subscriptions.

More information[]