A leap into the future: How liberalization will power mobile innovation in Ethiopia


By Gary Dewing: Country Manager of Ericsson Ethiopia

Ethiopia has taken some very positive steps in its digitization journey by outlining the Digital Strategy for Inclusive Prosperity 2025. With the right execution this can set the country on the path from mobile telephony to broadband connectivity and eventually digitizing entire sectors, creating jobs, improving education & healthcare and help the government in achieving its socio-economic development goals.

As digital infrastructure starts to play this increasingly central role in Ethiopia’s socio-economic development, affordable broadband access will need to be extended to all of the Ethiopian citizens. What is now needed is an execution framework that effectively enables Information and Communications Technology (ICT) access to drive inclusive socioeconomic development in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is opening its telecom market to foreign investment by partly privatizing Ethio telecom as well as introducing two new full-service operator licenses. This will catalyze steady growth in all sectors in the coming years. The liberalization initiative is meant to enable the provision of more, better and innovative communication services across the country as well as offering a host of opportunities including:

  • Attracting new investment
  • Upgrading national infrastructure
  • Delivering macro- economic benefits such as creating jobs
  • Contributing to improving universal access
  • Improving services, pricing and choice for the end-user community
  • Encouraging innovation and differentiation of services

In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 72% of mobile subscriptions by 2025. LTE share will reach around 30% by the end of the forecast period, and LTE subscriptions are set to triple, increasing from 90 million in 2019 to 270 million in 2025, according to the June 2020 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report.


Empowering a connected Ethiopia

As Ethiopia’s mobile market accelerated, driven by Ethiopian’s high demand on connectivity, Ericsson committed to support the development of Ethiopia’s telecom industry, leveraging our global expertise and technology leadership.

Ericsson has been present in Africa for more than 120 years, with our first entry onto the continent in Ethiopia in 1894. Ericsson started by supplying the first 500-point switching system and then Ethiopia ordered its first crossbar switching exchange in 1961.

In 2014 Ericsson signed a framework agreement with Ethio telecom. The agreement contained 2G/3G mobile communication equipment and related services including design, planning, deployment, tuning, and optimization. The framework agreement allowed Ethio telecom to further improve the capacity and performance of its 2G/3G network. This consequently ensured improved quality of network coverage, richer and more innovative mobile communication services to subscribers in the southern regions of Ethiopia.

The agreement was also used to transform the existing network and added additional capacity to meet the country’s need to bring connectivity to more than 40 million subscribers nationwide.

Achieving universal access should be a vitally important part of any country’s economic development strategy. In Ethiopia, the greatest economic and employment benefits and growth opportunities after this landmark ruling will be achieved when improved communications are extended throughout the entire country. Most importantly, digitalization will create an infrastructure that can boost livelihoods, promote financial inclusion, and improve access to health, education, government services and more.