Addis Ababa will have a high-speed 4G broadband network and there will be 3G service throughout the rest of the country within two years, thanks to a $700 million agreement between Ethiopia and Huawei Technologies, a Chinese firm and the world's second largest telecom equipment manufacturer.
The deal represents one part of a $1.6 billion project whose costs are being split between Huawei and ZTE, China's second-largest telecoms equipment maker. The Ethiopian government is expected to sign the ZTE half of the agreement shortly.
The agreement constitutes an expansion of mobile phone infrastructure in the country of more than 80 million people, and will double the current amount of subscribers to 56 million by 2015.
Ethio Telecom is the only mobile operator in the nation, one of the last countries in Africa to keep a state monopoly in the telecom sector. Last year the government gave approval for private companies to provide “value-added services” (services other than standard voice calls), and received applications from over 200 firms. So far it has granted an operating license to the South African MTN Group, the largest mobile phone company on the continent.
However Ethiopia has ruled out liberalising its telecom sector, stating that the annual $321 million it generates is invested in railway infrastructure.