Ethiopia’s state telecoms company has just launched a 4G mobile service in the country’s capital city, Addis Ababa, in a bid to catch up to the high-speed networks available in neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda.
Ethiopia launches 4G in Addis Ababa
The telecoms industry across Africa is said to be booming, with subscribers across the continent reaching almost 640 million in 2013, up from 25 million in 2001, according to statistics from the World Bank.
Analysts say that high-speed connections are vital in order to maintain growth and support the economy. Ethiopia is one of the last countries in Africa to have a state-run monopoly in the telecommunications sector, and has fallen behind neighbours in rolling out the latest 4G services, which are much faster than the previous generation known as 3G. This means that users are able to browse the Internet more quickly, and in turn run more complex and demanding applications.
The state-run company, Ethio Telecom, is determined to improve its network however. The 4G service, which initially will handle 400,000 subscribers, is part of a $1.6 billion deal formed two years ago with Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, in order to expand mobile across the country.
Ethio Telecom’s Head of Communications, Abdurahim Ahmed, says the new 4G network had taken eight months to build. The company’s Internet deals would range from 420 birr ($21) a month for 2 GB of data, to 3,600 birr ($180) for 30 GB.
However, huge parts of Ethiopia (including the capital) still have patch mobile reception. Ethio Telecom’s plans have been disrupted by disputes over the cost of upgrading the network, which led to a cancellation of ZTE’s part of the $1.6 billion deal. Ericsson replaced ZTE in December last year.
The 4G project in Ethiopia plans also plans to double 3G capacity to 60 million subscribers by the end of the year, in a country that has a population of more than 90 million.
Unfortunately, officials have ruled out opening up the country’s telecoms sector, saying the revenue it generates will be spent on railway projects – Ethiopia plans to construct more than 5,000 km of railway lines by 2020.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.