Ethiopia to sign mobile network deals with ZTE, Huawei

Telecoms

Ethiopia will sign agreements with China's ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in a "few weeks" to expand its mobile phone infrastructure and double subscribers to 40 million, a senior Ethiopian official said on Thursday.

ZTE Corp, China's second-largest telecoms equipment maker, has already been involved in developing phone and internet services in the Horn of Africa nation for several years.

Africa's rapidly expanding telecoms industry has come to symbolize the continent's economic growth, with subscribers across the continent totalling almost 650 million last year, up from just 25 million in 2001, according to the World Bank.

"We are now poised to start the expansion. We are almost on the final stage on dealing with ... ZTE and Huawei," said Debretsion Gebremichael, Ethiopia's deputy prime minister and minister of communications and technology.

"In a few weeks we will conclude the agreement and we will start the expansion," he told Reuters.

State-owned Ethio Telecom is the only mobile operator in the country of over 80 million people, one of the last remaining nations on the continent to maintain a state monopoly in telecoms.

Debretsion declined to say how much the new deals with the Chinese equipment suppliers are worth, but said the two firms would finance the project.