Ethiopia ‘to use Myanmar model’ to license new mobile operators

08 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Ethiopia is to follow the example set by Myanmar five years ago to choose and license its two new mobile operators.

But a weekend report from Reuters said that the new licensees would also be offered a stake in Ethio Telecom, still the state monopoly provider.

The government of Ethiopia, which came to power in early 2018, led by prime minister Abiy Ahmed, has already announced its determination to liberalise the telecoms market in the country – but details until now have been slight.

Now, the agency says state minister of finance Eyob Tekalign Tolina (pictured) plans a “two plus one” structure, with two new mobile operators and a stake in Ethio Telecom. Details could follow as early as September.

Six years ago Myanmar, which had previously been served only with a monopoly government-owned telco, decided to offer two mobile licences. Nearly two dozen international operators competed and a selection process resulted in licences for Ooredoo and Telenor. They both started services in 2014.

Already Etisalat, MTN, Orange and Vodafone have said they are interested in the Ethiopian market, though the government has not yet offered details of the bidding process.

Ethiopia’s telecoms reforms are likely to go much further. Capacity reported last month that the country wants to split Ethio Telecom into an infrastructure company and an independent services company. It is not yet clear how that would fit into the government’s plans to offer shares in Ethio Telecom – or whether the infrastructure company would offer capacity to all players in the market. Ethio Telecom is also building a fibre link to the coastal telecoms hub in Djibouti.