There won’t be a fourth operator in Ethiopia – at least not yet. The Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) has decided that it will not let a fourth operator enter the telecommunications sector for at least 10 years.
Thus, alongside the incumbent Ethio Telecom, there will be only two new players in the market when licences are issued as part of the long-awaited liberalisation of the sector. Each new player will receive a 15-year license; this will permit them to provide mobile, internet and fixed line services.
According to Ethiopian press reports, the government expects each new entrant to fulfil the stipulated requirements of their license, which will include covering 98 percent of the population with voice and text services within a ‘grace period’ of five years. If they do not meet the requirement in the time allowed they can expect sanctions to be applied.
Market information, requirements and licence details are included in the bid document. The request for proposal (RFP) also lays down the quality of service expected, as well as population and geographic coverage required.
Ethio Telecom holds the existing mobile network code 09, while the two new operators will receive 07 and 08 mobile network codes. Numbering allocations for fixed lines will also be made to the companies across the country, which is divided into nine telecom regions.
Among would-be players that have expressed interest are a consortium of Vodafone, Vodacom and Safaricom. There have also been bids from Etisalat, Axian, MTN, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Telkom SA, Liquid Telecom and Snail Mobil.
This process will continue for some months. Although 25 December is the deadline for the reception of questions and suggestions from interested bidders on the RFP, there will then be a 20-day wait until provisional answers are made available. The final version of the RFP, which will incorporate comments from the bidders, will be launched on 29 January.
The final bid submission date will be 5 March. It’s not yet clear when a decision on the winners will be made available.