Ethiopia to open bids for telecoms expansion in Dec or Jan - CEO

Telecoms

ct 28 Ethiopia's state-run telecoms monopoly will launch a tender in December or January to help the company upgrade infrastructure and expand its mobile phone coverage by about 72 percent, the company's chief executive said.

The project, whose cost is being assessed, will mostly involve the upgrading of software technology, as previous work had laid out enough towers, Ethio Telecom Chief Executive Andualem Admassie Abate told Reuters in an interview.

He said one possible software update may include the future addition of 5G technology.

The Horn of Africa country is among only a handful of nations in the continent to maintain government control over telecoms.

Under a $1.6 billion agreement signed with Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE in 2013, Ethio Telecom started rolling out infrastructure that would double capacity to 60 million subscribers by the end of this year, in the country of more than 90 million people.

Ethio Telecom subsequently awarded Sweden's Ericsson a slice of ZTE's deal, owing to disagreements over the cost of upgrading the existing network.

Andualem said all three firms are expected to bid for the new expansion plan, though the tender will be open for all companies.

"Our plan is to have a mobile subscriber base of around 103 million," the CEO said.

"We expect them (the expansion projects) to be done in less than five years," he said, adding the package would also involve raising fixed-line users to 10 million.

Ethio Telecom earned 21.5 billion birr in revenue during the 2014/15 fiscal year, of which 14.5 billion was gross profit before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). It expects gross profit to rise to 38 billion birr by the end of 2015/16, Andualem said. ($1 = 20.8025 birr) (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and David Holmes)
Source: Reuters 27 October 2015