Ethiopia's state-run telecoms monopoly has started selling 4G services in the capital Addis Ababa, offering packages for use with an LTE dongle or LTE Wi-Fi router from Huawei, or an LTE-enabled smartphone.
Ethio Telecom is providing a total of six LTE plans ranging from ETB420 (€19/$21) a month for 2 gigabytes of data to ETB3,600 for 30 GB. The dongles cost ETB2,500 and the routers ETB4,299. Customers outside the 4G coverage area will be automatically switched back to the operator's 3G network.
The move means that Ethio Telecom is the latest operator in Africa to launch LTE services despite numerous challenges in the region, including the cost of devices, the availability of spectrum and the cost and availability of backhaul. Reuters also noted that vast parts of Ethiopia still suffer from occasionally patchy mobile reception.
Ethio Telecom told Reuters that the LTE network took eight months to build. The company initially selected Huawei and ZTE to build the LTE network in Addis Ababa and help deploy 3G service throughout the rest of the country, with each vendor allocated a 50 per cent share of a contract worth $1.6 billion (€1.47 billion) in total.
However, Reuters reported in December last year that Ethio Telecom and ZTE fell out over terms as they disagreed over the cost of upgrading an existing network. Since then, the operator has also signed a framework agreement with Ericsson on 2G/3G mobile communication equipment and related services.
According to The Africa Report in December, the deal allowed the Sweden-based vendor to take over four circles from the total six circles of the project previously given to ZTE.
Ethio Telecom is the only mobile operator in the country of more than 90 million people, with Ethiopia one of the last remaining countries in Africa to maintain a state monopoly in telecoms.
As well as rolling out LTE in the capital, the goals of the project include an increase in mobile service capacity to 59 million subscribers and improving total telecoms network coverage to 85 per cent, according to Ethio Telecom's statement from November 2013. The Africa Report noted in December 2014 that the East African country had over 25 million mobile subscribers and planned to increase network capacity to 50 million in 2015.
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