ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s state-run Ethio Telecom plans to install a 4G network in the capital and other regions and to upgrade other network services, it said on Friday, as the government prepares to open up the sector to private foreign investment.
In July, Ethiopia announced it would award two telecoms licenses to multinational mobile companies, signaling a move toward opening up one of the world’s last major closed telecom markets.
Referring to the liberalization drive, Ethio Telecom on Friday announced a three-year strategic plan to “reshape the company and lead with business orientation and a competitive mindset.”
Based on data traffic growth and demand, Ethio Telecom will roll out 4G network capacity in Addis Ababa and other regions, and improve network coverage and capacity, the company said.
The statement gave no budget or financing details for the expansion.
The company expects to increase total subscribers by 16% to 50.46 million in the year to July 2020. It plans to open 73 new retail shops over the same period, bringing the total to 438, it said.
Ethiopia, which has a population of more than 100 million people, has been among Africa’s fastest growing economies for more than a decade.
However, the vast majority of the population live in rural areas. Around a third of Ethiopians have a phone and about 70 percent have no electricity, a 2018 World Bank study found.
Ethio Telecom’s network quality is notoriously poor. An internet blackout in June cost the economy millions of dollars and crippled businesses.
The telecoms industry is considered the big prize in a push to liberalize the economy launched last year by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Jason Neely