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Ethio Telecom switches on ‘pre-commercial’ 5G, with Huawei

Ethio Telecom HQ.jpg

Ethiopia’s state-owned operator has introduced a limited 5G service into the capital city, Addis Ababa.

Ethio Telecom (pictured) described the service, available from only six base stations from yesterday, as “pre-commercial”.

The Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) has given Ethio Telecom “temporary 5G spectrum approval to implement the pre-commercial trial of the service”, and the operator said it was working with Huawei Technologies to deploy the 5G network.

But the launch also gives it a significant advantage over rival start-up Safaricom Ethiopia, which is more than a month behind schedule with its launch.

In an interview in the April-May issue of Capacity, Matthew Harrison-Harvey, chief external affairs and regulatory officer at Safaricom Ethiopia, said the company aimed to start services on 9 April.

But last week he confirmed that no launch had yet happened, and did not give a date. “We are making progress!” was all he said.

He said in the interview, Safaricom – which is part of the Vodafone family – will offer 2G, 3G and 4G services from its launch, but not 5G. “We’ve the capacity for 5G and that will be phased in,” he said.

Safaricom will be using a mixture of Nokia and Huawei kit for its network.

Its parent company, Safaricom Kenya, launched 5G in Nairobi and other cities in March 2021.

Now, Ethio Telecom has won a major advantage over the newcomer – as it did a year ago when it launched mobile money, under the Telebirr brand.

Ethio Telecom said on Monday: “As part of the pre-commercial trial service, we have begun our service in the capital and will expand our footprint to regional cities up to 150 sites over the coming 12 months.”

The company added: “We shall further roll out 5G sites to more areas based on feasible business demands.”

But it warned: “However, our full commercialisation of the service is dependent on the readiness and demand from the players in the ecosystem: customers’ readiness to use the service, availability of 5G enabled devices and smartphones, the need and readiness of enterprises to use the service.”

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