Category: "ICT"

Ethiopia - FAQs answered about Nokia Ethiopic Phone

January 15th, 2008

Ethiopia - FAQs answered about Nokia Ethiopic Phone

As the person within Nokia responsible for Ethiopia, I have been monitoring your user's comments closely and wanted to let you know that we appreciate their feedback. Based on what I have read, I would like to provide some clarification on some of their comments:

1) Why are the 'Ethiopic' mobile devices only in Amharic?

As Ethiopia entered the new Millennium, Nokia introduced five 'Ethiopic' mobile devices which are the 1200, 1208, 1650, 2630 & 2760 with more to come in the future.The 'user interface' and the 'user manual' on the current 'Ethiopic' mobile devices are in Amharic and English. Amharic was obviously selected as it is the national language. Users will however be able to save contacts, send/ receive text messages in any Ethiopian language that uses the 'Ethiopic' or 'Latin' characters. Lastly, depending on demand and feedback from our customers, we will also evaluate whether to add the 'Ethiopic' characters to additional mobile devices within our portfolio and whether to add additional Ethiopian languages to these mobile devices.

2) Why does the 'Ethiopic' mobile device use 'meret' vs. 'mereche' or 'yemritu'?

There were several factors that led to this during the translation process (one being limited space) and it is something we're trying to improve on subsequent 'Ethiopic' mobile devices.

3) Do these 'Ethiopic' mobile devices work outside of Ethiopia?

These current 'Ethiopic' mobile devices are GSM and are made for the Ethiopian market which uses the 900/1800Mhz frequency band. For example, if an Ethiopian were to roam in other countries that use 900/1800Mhz (which is most of the world except the US and a few other countries), the user would be able to use these mobile devices. For text messaging to work, the operator would need to support the UCS-2 feature in their messaging center which basically would recognize characters other than Latin characters. This is something we continue to test, however, based on our experience, it appears that many operators around the world support this feature for transmission of Chinese, Indian, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic characters, among others.

4) How does 'texting' work?

Nokia has worked closely with the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) which has ensured that the messaging center supports the UCS-2 feature. Therefore Ethiopians with these mobile devices can send each other text messages in any Ethiopian language using 'Ethiopic' characters. One can also continue to use 'Latin' letters with these mobile devices.

5) Why is Nokia launching these 'Ethiopic' mobile devices now?

Based on our research, 'localization' is extremely important to users and therefore Nokia embarked on a multi-year project to develop these 'Ethiopic' mobile devices. This initiative required that we develop a solution whereby all the 'Ethiopic' characters and numerals are accessible on a keypad of a standard mobile device. That was the challenge which has been overcome. All the various forms of the 'Ethiopic' characters are accessible on the mobile device. In terms of the timing, we were very happy to launch this during the Ethiopian Millennium which is also the same time that ETC re-launched the text messaging service and started expanding the mobile network.

6) What are the other benefits for consumers in Ethiopia?

The main benefit to consumers is that they'll be able to utilize all the features of their mobile devices which is not always the case, especially for those Ethiopians who are not fluent in the English language. Consumers would also be able to communicate via text message using their own language. Lastly, Nokia provides a '13 month' warranty in Ethiopia (based on the Ethiopian calendar: 365 days) for consumers who purchase these mobile devices from our official distributor and its retailers in Ethiopia.

Levi Girma

Related Links

Ethiopians get texting in Amharic (BBC)

Nokia launches Amharic-based mobile phones

Ethiopia - Ethiopians get texting in Amharic

December 12th, 2007

Ethiopians get texting in Amharic

By Elizabeth Blunt

BBC News
, Addis Ababa

A new range of mobile phones has just gone on sale in Ethiopia, with the onscreen menu in Amharic, and the ability to send SMS text messages in the Geez script - used for Amharic and other languages in the region.

This is something of a breakthrough in a country where until recently text messaging was not allowed in any language.

As the clock approached midnight on the Ethiopian New Year's Eve in September, just before the start of the year 2000 in the Ethiopian calendar, mobile phones across Addis Ababa started to bleep with the first text message their owners had received for two years.

"I wish you Happy Ethiopian Millennium," it read in English. "SMS service will be launched shortly."

And it was signed by the head of Ethiopian Telecom, the country's one and only telephone operator. This was as near as the company ever came to an acknowledgement that it had been blocking the service.

Text, no text

Ethiopians had been able to send and receive messages in the past, but during the violent election protests in 2005 the service stopped working without explanation.

Now text messaging is back.

But although young Ethiopians are as devoted to their mobile phones as young people anywhere in the world, text messaging is not very popular.

Until now the problem has been that mobile phones cannot cope with Amharic, which is written in the ancient Geez script.

Educated people text each other in English or Italian; if they want to send texts in their own language, Amharic speakers have to laboriously transliterate them into Roman script.

The new range of phones, developed by Nokia, have onscreen instructions in Amharic, keypads showing both Roman and Geez characters, and even the ability to set the date according to Ethiopia's unique, 13-month calendar.

The script will work for any language which uses the Geez script - Amharic or Tirgrinya in Ethiopia or Tigrean across the border in Eritrea.

Developing a Geez keyboard has been challenging.

While the Roman alphabet has just 26 characters, Geez characters, with all their variants, add up to nearly 300.

Each one combines both a consonant and a vowel, meaning you need two keystrokes for each letter.

So far the phones cannot do predictive messaging, but Nokia say they are working on it.

Market potential

The key to the system is the use of a Unicode - UCS2 standard - font.

Any mobile network which is enabled for UCS2 should be able to transmit the Geez characters, and any phone which is UCS2-capable should be able to display them successfully.

In practice that suggests the networks which already transmit non-Roman scripts, like Hindi or Arabic, will probably be able to transmit Amharic as well.

The phones are more problematical, but owners of recent-model handsets may find they can receive Amharic texts even if they do not themselves have a keypad which will send them.

Nokia eventually plans to sell five different models, but it has started with a basic model, the Nokia 1200, priced at around $50 - the same as a similar model without the Amharic keypad.

For smart young people around Addis Ababa, the plainness of this first model may be off-putting.

Some I spoke to were excited by the idea of Amharic messaging, impressed by the affordable price, but disappointed when they discovered the phone model was neither slim-line nor did it have Bluetooth or a built-in camera.

For the moment Ethiopia Telecom does have its Unicode capability switched on, although at the moment it is describing the Amharic capability as "a trial service" in 50 selected sites.

If the new phones do catch on, they should be good business for Nokia.

Their prediction for the next two years is that 80% of new mobile phone subscriptions will be in the developing world - something like one million new customers a day.

With a relatively low mobile phone penetration so far, a population of more than 70 million people, and a large overseas diaspora, Ethiopia is seen as a big market opportunity.

Related Links

Nokia launches Amharic-based mobile phones

Ethiopia - Affordable connectivity for rural villages

December 10th, 2007

Ethiopia - Affordable connectivity for rural villages

By Kirubel Tadesse


Nokia Siemens, a joint venture of Siemens Communications and Nokia Networks Business Group, says that it is responding to people’s real needs and budgets by developing solutions and new business models to enable them get connected.

“Around half the world’s population lives in villages,” explains Nokia Siemens, “the challenge now is for network operators to be flexible enough to try and adopt innovative solutions such as Nokia Siemens Networks’ ‘Village Connection’ that transfers responsibility for local network and business functions to a local level, building cost-effective connectivity, village by village.” Nokia Siemens explains that the thinking behind this solution is that now operators across Africa can capture the rural market potential by offering voice and sms services to villages with relatively low investment which, in turn, helps them meet the rural end-user at the point at which she or he can afford to get connected.

At a press conference Michael Maltusch, Ethiopia Country Director of Nokia Siemens Networks, gave on Thursday, December 6, 2007 at Sheraton Addis, said that in order to achieve its goal of connecting 5 billion people by wire and wireless from one end of the planet to the other by 2015, Nokia Siemens Networks believes at least three areas must be addressed, “Innovative solutions; novel business models for rural areas and the synthesis of a new value network where rural roll-outs are turned into a lucrative, realistic business opportunity that will enable the mobile communications industry to provide rural customers with connectivity”.

Explaining Nokia Siemens Networks’ Village Connection, the Country Director said “Village Connection uses a different business model. The Village Subscriber - for whom affordability is key, so he or she can choose between various call plans ranging from local-calls-only to Nokia Siemens Networks Village Connection Domain connectivity and roaming – with post and prepaid options; The Entrepreneur – where local people will now have the opportunity to host their own mobile access point, providing a lucrative business opportunity where the village entrepreneur or franchising business is an entirely new player in the value network; The GSM Operator - which aggregates traffic from various village entrepreneurs and is responsible for channeling the traffic between different villages and for the provisioning of external connectivity to Village Connection subscribers; The authorities – statutory bodies that may include the licensor and/or the regulator responsible for licensing and spectrum allocation; The Solution Vendor – responsible for supplying the network infrastructure and subscriber terminals either to the GSM operator or directly to the village entrepreneur.”

“The importance of the Village Connection model is that it brings business to villages and enables different models of business franchising that create employment for someone in a village. It also recognizes the importance of sustainable growth when connecting rural communities – which become possible when social responsibility and environmental values, are also in place”, added Maltusch.

Combining the legacy of Nokia Networks and Siemens Com, Nokia Siemens Networks has been active in Ethiopia since 2004 and is a major networks solutions provider for Ethiopia Telecom Corporation (ETC). The company has delivered and installed GSM and GPRS Mobile Network to ETC for approximately one million subscribers and delivered and installed a 1,800 kilometers of Fiber Optics Network in challenging geographical environments.

Ethiopia to build 'ICT Park'

December 9th, 2007

Ethiopia is planning to build an Information Communication Technology park in Addis Ababa, the weekly Reporter wrote. The park is planned in Bole, near the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. According to the report, the planning of the project is undertaken by India's IT Wipro.

The park is planned over a 200-hectare plot of land, the paper added.

Ethiopia - ETC to launch 3G mobile service

December 3rd, 2007

Ethiopia - ETC finalizing preparations to launch 3G mobile service
Nokia Amharic phones available on market

By Kirubel Tadesse


The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation is finalizing preparations to launch 3G (Third Generation) mobile services in fifty selected areas to corporate customers and its professionals. According to Abdurahim Mohammed, ETC’s Public Relation Office head, the corporation is making final preparations to distribute the service to potential customers.
Abdurahim explained that the service will enable users to make video calls and messaging and enjoy other third generation mobile features such as a wide range of high-speed mobile services, online games, photo messaging, and broadband internet connection. Abdurahim added that the pilot programs to be launched are intended to see the service results and asses its acceptance in a shorter period.

ETC also announced that the new Nokia Amharic Mobile Phones are supported by its mobile networks. Abdurahim added, “ETC is not only making investments in areas where it needs but also in areas where it is needed. What has been a major problem in internet service is a lack of national content. Most of Ethiopian users are forced to download what has been put by the rest of the world since more than 90% of users’ download non- Amharic or non- Ethiopian language contents.” He also added that now the five Nokia models with alphabet and Amharic user’s interface are available in market and, ETC will support Amharic SMS and other Amharic content dissemination and exchanges through its mobile networks.

On Friday November 30, 2007 Seyoum Bereded, Director of Ethiopian Millennium Celebration National Council Secretariat, Levi Girma, Nokia’s East Africa Account Manager, and ETC’s Abdurahim Mohammed gave a press conference to mark distribution of the first Amharic mobile phones that were made available on market this weekend. Seyoum Bereded said that the introduction of the Amharic phones will play an important role in preserving national identity and language. “At this time of Ethiopian third millennium celebrations, we need to show our own identity, language and culture and this introduction of an Amharic phone helps in doing that, “Seyoum Commented.

Levi Girma announced that as of this weekend, the new Nokia products - Nokia 1200, 1208, 1650, 2630 and 2760 – are available through Glorious PLC and its retailers. He said all the necessarily preparations and testing in ETC networks are under taken and showed a complete success in both post and pre paid mobile services in all the old and new networks.