The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) last Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with three Chinese telecom companies on a telecom infrastructure development project.

ETC has designed a four-year expansion project which would enable it to increase the number of mobile phones from the existing 1.5 million lines to seven million, the number of landlines from one million to four million and to lay a six-km-long optical fibre backbone network. So far, the corporation has installed a 4,000-km-long optical fibre network across the nation.

The total cost of the telecom infrastructure development project is estimated at USD 2.4 billion. ZTE Corporation, Huawei Technologies and Chinese International Telecommunication Construction Corporation (CITCC) are the three Chinese firms recruited for the project.

Tefera Walwa, Minister of Capacity Building, Junedin Sado, Minister of Transport and Communications, the Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Lin, Lin and other dignitaries attended the signing ceremony held at the Sheraton Addis.

ETC's CEO, Amare Amsalu, said that the corporation, together with the Ethiopian government, has been pursuing various workable strategies to secure the financing required for the implementation of the telecom infrastructure development projects. "Due to the size and complexity of the projects, the corporation devised a scheme in which telecom companies could come up with a fund that would enable them to provide the goods and services required for the project," Amsalu said.

Abdurahim Ahmed, head of the communications department with ETC told The Reporter that the companies were expected to secure loans from international banks and to invest on the projects. "The corporation would re-imburse the fund," Abdurahim said. According to him, the companies will be involved in mobile, landline and wireless telephone network expansion projects. They will be also engaged in the deployment of optical fiber.

Eight companies had submitted financial proposals to the corporation. Western telecom giants like Simens, Nokia, Alcatel and Eriksson are among the list. But ETC selected the Chinese firms. "After conducting serious scrutiny and evaluation of the financing proposals the privilege to facilitate sources of finance for the project is extended to the three companies," Amare said. "

The Reporter