Ethio Telecom hopes to make a lot of money from renting its existing infrastructure to the incoming operators, hence strongly opposing additional infrastructure entrants
One of the last remaining telecoms monopolies in the world, Ethiopia is slowly moving towards liberalising its market, announcing in 2019 that it would be allowing two new service operators into the country, as well as selling a 40% stake in incumbent Ethio Telecom.
As part of this liberalisation process, the Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) has reportedly been contacted by a number of telecoms infrastructure companies, including Helios Towers, hoping to gain entry to the country to build and lease infrastructure for the new operators.
Upon learning of this, however, Ethio Telecom have complained to the government, arguing that they have spent billions on infrastructure and if anyone should profit from leasing towers and fibre it should be them.
“We have built sufficient telecom infrastructures like fibre cables and mobile base masts that we can rent it to the newly entering companies. So the incoming telecom operators will either use our existing infrastructure by renting or build their own,” Ethio Telecom chief executive Frehiwot Tamiru told media on Thursday 6th August.
“We do not believe that the authority will take any action that could jeopardise Ethio Telecom’s existence,” she argued. The government has reportedly been responsive to the telco’s pleas, agreeing to suspend the entrance of any foreign infrastructure companies into the market.
To what extent this news will impact the telecoms companies currently applying for one of the two teleco licences becoming available, or for a stake in Ethio Telecom itself, is unclear. At the end of June, the national regulator announced that 12 companies had registered their interest in gaining a licence, including Safaricom, Vodacom, and Orange.
The liberalisation process continues to move slowly, but with Ethiopia being Africa’s fastest growing market, operators will be all too happy to persevere.