Safaricom Ethiopia has met its latest deadline for the beginning of its network rollout with a phased city-by-city customer network pilot beginning in Dire Dawa City in eastern Ethiopia. The pilot comes four months after the company missed its first operational launch date.
The pilot, in Ethiopia’s second biggest city after the capital – with an estimated population of half a million – kicks off a roll-out that leads up to an October national launch that will make Safaricom Ethiopia the country’s second mobile network and first private operator.
The customer pilot in Dire Dawa will be on 2G, 3G and 4G networks; customers will be able to purchase SIM cards and choose their preferred numbers on Safaricom Ethiopia's 07 prefix.
The Safaricom Ethiopia SIM cards will be available in branded shops or souks and come with a welcome offer of data, voice, and SMS for customers to test and experience the network for one month. Customers will also be able to purchase airtime vouchers to recharge their airtime balance to continue using services on the network.
Three shops, in the Keira, Meskelegna and Cornell areas, will be open to the public for customer registration, purchase of devices, and dedicated customer support.
On the test network in Dire Dawa, customers will be able to use data services, make calls and send SMS to Safaricom Ethiopia and (state-owned incumbent) Ethio Telecom customers, and make international calls worldwide. However, it doesn’t look like a local version of the M-Pesa mobile money service is part of this pilot.
Customers will also have the option of accessing customer care services from the call centre in their preferred language (of which there are five: Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Af-Somali, Tigrigna, and English), by dialling 700 to speak to customer experience agents.
An investment of an estimated US$1 billion and a large recruitment drive of some 500 staff to date are supporting this rollout which should see the Safaricom Ethiopia network and services available in 25 cities by April 2023.