Ethiopia targets 45 million phone users
Thursday, December 9 2010 at 00:00
Ethiopia has set its state-owned telecom monopoly a target of netting 45 million mobile phone subscribers after it last week outsourced the company’s management function to giant France Telecom.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation with 82 million people.
Based on the agreement, the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation-—the oldest telco in Afric— will now be known as Ethio Telecom.
France Telecom is best known for its mobile phone brand, Orange.
As of December 2, 2010 Orange will take over the management after its $41 million bid was accepted.
The money will cover a service and profit sharing agreement that will see France Telecom bring in 24 “highly-skilled” managers to lead different departments of the firm.
Ethiopia started its mobile telephone service some eight years ago with a capacity of 350,000 subscribers in the capital Addis Ababa and other major towns.
Less than 10 per cent of Ethiopia’s population has access to a mobile telephone.
Currently the company has eight million mobile phone service subscribers across the country.
It has set a target of reaching 12 million and 17 million people in 2011 and 2010 respectively.
The ambitious plan was announced by Mr Debretsion G/Mariam, the minister for communication, information and technology.
A BlackBerry phone service will also start soon, he said.
Ethiopia has broadband and under-water sea cable connectivity via Sudan and Kenya but the service still suffers frequent outages.
The government has invested heavily in its telecoms industry in the past few years, including an 80 Gigabyte fibre network via the Port of Sudan landing station.
Mr Debretsion admits this service needs improvement with modernisation works underway in the company including fibre-optic cable installation across the country that has been going on for the last three years and which ended on November 2010.
“We own the longest fibre optic cable line in sub-Saharan Africa and that is the biggest achievement” Mr Debretsion added.
Chinese telecoms giant ZTE in 2008 bagged a contract from Ethiopia to build next-generation telecoms networks in 14 major cities.
The East African nation is offering a cheap mobile and fixed phone service but is the second-most expensive country in the world for broadband Internet, according to the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union.
Mr Debretsion also said the government is looking to reduce pricing and improve connections in coming seasons.
New Ethio Telecom (Orange) chief executive Jean- Michel Latute said he was confident of meeting the target.
Failure to meet the set parameters will lead to the immediate cancellation of the deal.
The Ethiopian government has set a minimum performance rate of at least 75 percent for Orange to get a profit share and other incentive packages.
The government has so far rejected a strong push from International Monetary Fund and other agencies to liberalise its telecoms sector.
Ethiopia is among countries which practice web filtering and phone tapping against critical websites and individual mail accounts, critics allege.
But Mr Debretsion denied this and said his office was not aware of any such issue.
Ethiopia has an independent agency called Information Network Security Agency (INSA) which is affiliated with the national intelligence office.
The government said INSA is assigned to defend any possible cyber attack against government interests.