4G Advancement in Ethiopia: a milestone in the country’s telecom landscape

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By Abiye Yeshitila: Account Manager at Ericsson Ethiopia

Ethiopia is on the verge of massive digital transformation, as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, which is being led by consumers who, today, have access to more devices and are more connected than ever. The ICT market in Ethiopia is constantly evolving, and telecommunication providers have to offer products and services that meet their customers’  demand for high speed data connectivity.

The first months of 2020 saw the spread of a novel coronavirus around the globe. Subsequent behavioral changes due to lockdown restrictions caused measurable changes in the usage of both fixed and mobile networks.

In Ethiopia, access to mobile communication has expanded rapidly. Proliferation of smartphones and tablets have increased data traffic exponentially, driven by the rise of video content. Explosion of mobile broadband is set to create new demand and an upsurge in household consumption of mobile internet is expected to provide continued impetus to the sector.

Enabling broadband connectivity for all is a basic human right and we know that for every 1000 new broadband connections, 80 new jobs are created (Ericsson and Arthur D. Little). A 10% increase in mobile broadband adoption secures 0.6-2.8% GDP growth (Ericsson and Imperial College) and a doubling of average achieved broadband speed generates an additional 0.3% GDP growth (Ericsson, Arthur D. Little, Chalmers University).

To keep up with increasing demand for data capacity, service providers need a fast solution. They are playing a key role in enhancing networks and paving the way for next generation of mobile connectivity.

Faced with limited spectrum assets and a need to provide the best user-quality network, many service providers have launched 4G LTE networks. LTE simplified the network and increased spectral efficiency significantly while driving down costs. It is the first mobile system that is designed for mobile broadband from the start. Some of the use cases it has enabled include:

  • Enhanced local-area access through network densification
  • Machine-type communications, providing efficient connections for non-human centric such as burglar alarms, power meters etc.
  • Device-to-device communications, where direct communication between wireless devices is enabled in a peer-to-peer mode

Consumer devices dominate for 4G. Despite strong initial hope for laptops as a driving device, it was the app-enabled smart phone that became the killer device. Mobile phones have moved from a communication-centric device to a multi-purpose smart personal companion. Smartphones will continue to see growth and more data-centric offerings are forecast to enter the market.

The latest mobility data shows that LTE accounted for around 11% of subscriptions in 2019 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 72% percent 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.

Championing current demand, 4G brings major improvements in terms of coverage and capacity, offering download and upload speeds many times greater than those achievable with earlier technologies. In addition, support for Machine-Type Communications (MTC) and Internet of Things (IoT) in cellular networks is being drastically improved with the launch of 4G LTE.

Ericsson’s services, software and infrastructure – especially in mobility, broadband and the cloud – are enabling the telecom industry and other sectors to do better business, increase efficiency, improve the user experience and capture new opportunities. We have done business in Ethiopia for a long time – since the sales of telephone receivers commenced in 1894.

Ericsson is devoted to support the development of Ethiopia’s telecom industry, leveraging our global expertise and technology leadership. We are working together with service providers in Ethiopia to ensure rewarding new user experiences for Ethiopian consumers in the new connectivity era as part of our mission to empower Africa’s technology-enabled economies and keep #AfricaInMotion.

What consumers want

Consumers have gone through a massive digital evolution in a short span of time and people today are staying online longer than ever before.

Our go-to technology devices have progressed from PCs to smartphones and communication has grown from voice to video and social networking services. Today, people are prone to behavior that involves reduced human interaction, with the advent of technological options such as e-shopping, e-selfcare and e-billing, to name a few.

The new consumer of today demands a seamless online experience across all the fronts whether it is a smartphone, a tablet, or other devices.

The 4G network in Ethiopia’s capital offers mobile users with faster data speeds, high-quality video conferencing and faster response times when using mobile applications or accessing the internet. It also helped service providers meet demand for mobile data, which is rising every year as customers move to adopt data-hungry smartphones, mobile modems and tablets. Hence, there are plans to expand LTE across the country.

A steady upsurge in numbers for smartphone subscriptions and mobile traffic is the norm in the mobile sector. LTE for mobile and fiber optics for fixed connections are becoming widespread and this has led to the introduction of innovative connectivity bundles for voice and data. Demand and usage of digital services like OTT video, smart home, financial services, e-health, e-education is also on the rise.

It has been stated that the mobile industry in Ethiopia is a key contributor to the country’s economy and enables new economic activity in other sectors. As wireless connectivity enables business to be done on the go, it allows information and services to be access anywhere, and will create new services and industries.