Till not too long ago, Ethiopia was one of many few telecom markets on the earth that was nonetheless a monopoly, with no competitors to state-owned agency Ethio Telecom.
The scenario modified with the award of a brand new communications license within the first half of 2021.
Market liberalization had been a very long time coming; the federal government pledged to open the market as much as competitors way back to 1999, when it outlined plans to authorize a brand new GSM operator, however it took years for this plan to come back to fruition.
It was not till 2019, underneath a revised proposal printed in July that yr, that the federal government revealed it was trying to award a brand new full-service Unified Telecommunications Service License to Ethio Telecom and comparable concessions to a pair of recent gamers.
Whereas 12 teams expressed an curiosity within the new licenses, solely two bids had been submitted. One from South Africa-based MTN Group and one other from International Partnership for Ethiopia (GPE), a consortium comprising Kenya’s Safaricom, Vodafone Group, Vodacom Group, CDC Group, and Sumitomo Company.
In Could 2021, it was confirmed that GPE can be awarded one of many licenses for $850 million, however MTN’s provide of $600 million was too low and had been rejected.
Arrival of Safaricom
The profitable consortium subsequently unveiled plans to launch commercially in April 2022 underneath the identify Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia.
It stated it might make investments round $590 million within the preliminary start-up part, with between $1.5 and $2 billion to be spent over its first 5 years of operation.
Though unable to satisfy this launch goal—partly because of delays finalizing a roaming settlement with Ethio Telecom—Safaricom Ethiopia ultimately introduced the beginning of a community pilot in August 2022, earlier than confirming its industrial launch in 11 places in October that yr.
Ethiopia Cell Market Income and ARPU
It was an immediate hit.
By the tip of October 2022, it claimed 740,000 subscriptions and hit 1 million lower than a month later. It additionally had a staggering 5 million subscriptions by August 2023. Market chief Ethio Telecom had an estimated 70 million cellular subscriptions on the similar date.
Safaricom’s additionally been busy increasing its community attain. It lined 21 cities by early 2023 and was energetic in 22 cities and 49 cities by the center of the yr, protecting roughly 25% of the nation’s 105 million inhabitants.
In June 2023, World Financial institution Group members the Worldwide Finance Company and the Multilateral Funding Assure Company introduced plans to make an fairness funding in Safaricom Ethiopia, in addition to offering loans for the cellco.
Underneath the deal, the World Financial institution Group is offering fairness, debt, and insurance coverage amenities to help the development and operation of Safaricom Ethiopia’s 4G and 5G cellular networks.
Third License Award Restarted
In the meantime, the method to award the third new full-service license was re-launched in September 2021, however then postponed three months later.
The regulator, the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA), stated that it had “obtained considerations and requests from a number of potential bidders to delay the method and difficulty the RFP at a handy time sooner or later.”
Functions had been ultimately invited as soon as once more on the finish of June 2023. Saying the event, the ECA stated it was inviting “world-class” telecommunications operators to participate in what it known as an “thrilling alternative to function inside Ethiopia’s quickly rising economic system.” The deadline for submissions was October 6, 2023, however the ECA had nonetheless to announce any additional developments by mid-November.
Ethio Telecom Privatization
Whereas the seek for a 3rd cellular operator continues, the federal government’s been trying to unload a stake in Ethio Telecom. Just like the licensing course of, nonetheless, issues haven’t all the time gone easily.
Whereas it printed the RFP for the sale of a 40% stake within the telco in September 2021, the next March the sale was postponed.
The nation’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) stated that the choice to press pause on the method had been taken “given the latest developments and fast-moving macroeconomic modifications each globally and from a rustic perspective.”
The tender was restarted in February this yr, with the stake on provide having been elevated to 45%. The federal government’s enthusiastic about receiving “proposals from events who can add worth to the corporate by bringing in finest practices by way of operations, infrastructure administration, and next-generation technological capabilities.”
No additional developments have thus far been reported.
Cell Market Development
In the meantime, the Ethiopian cellular market has continued to develop.
On the finish of June 2023 there have been an estimated 72.2 million cellular subscriptions, up from 64.5 million a yr earlier and 54.3 million in mid-2021.
Ethiopia Cell Market Development, 2015-2023
Ethio Telecom isn’t taking the arrival of competitors mendacity down.
In September 2023 it launched the nation’s first 5G community at 145 websites within the capital, Addis Ababa. Later that month it teamed up with Gilat to modernize its portfolio of satellite-based enterprise providers and enhance satellite tv for pc backhaul for its cellular networks.