Safaricom Ethiopia, the new telecoms operator that will compete with Ethio Telecom from April, has signed a dark fibre agreement with the nation’s electricity grid company.
Under the deal, Safaricom will use a network of optical ground wire (OPGW) cables already installed along the high voltage transmission lines owned by state-controlled Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP).
Safaricom Ethiopia CEO Anwar Soussa said: “Such infrastructure sharing agreements will enable us to fulfil our commitment to transform Ethiopian lives for a digital future and contributes to efforts being made to the phased operation launch.”
Asheber Balcha, CEO of EEP, said: “This first-of-its-kind collaboration will see not only power but telecommunications reach Ethiopians in all corners of the country. The agreement we sign today to share our OPGW infrastructure will enable Ethiopian Electric Power to utilize its resources and increase its revenue, while enabling Safaricom Ethiopia to provide quality and competitive telecommunication services.”
EEP said it signed the deal with Safaricom yesterday and that it will last five years. Safaricom Ethiopia is controlled by Safaricom Kenya, with a 55.7% stake. Other shareholders are Japan’s Sumitomo with 27.2%, the UK government’s CDC Group with 10.9% and Vodacom of South Africa with 6.2%.
Safaricom is aiming to start services on 9 April 2022, nine months after it was awarded its 15-year licence from the government of Ethiopia.
OPGW fibre is not a new technique. UK operator Energis started life in 1991 as a subsidiary of the UK’s National Grid, using specially installed fibre on electricity pylons across the country. Energis later became part of Cable & Wireless in 2005 and is now owned by Vodafone.
EEP said that, over the course of few decades, it has built a network OPGW cables along its high voltage transmission lines, for its own use. But it has set aside some of the fibres for lease to other operators.
The first phase of the agreement includes Safaricom Ethiopia leasing more than 4,000km of OPGW, with the option to agree further phases.