Category: "ICT"

Ethiopia: ZTE, Huawei to Get Ethiopian Telecommunications Contracts

October 13th, 2012
ZTE, Huawei to Get Ethiopian Telecommunications Contracts

ZTE, Huawei to Get Ethiopian Telecommunications Contracts

By William Davison

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s government will sign a two-year contract with Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. within weeks, Communication and Information Technology Minister Debretsion Gebremichael said. ZTE, China’s second-largest maker of phone equipment, said in May it was bidding with Huawei for a $1.3 billion government telecommunications contract. “Both companies will be engaged,” Debretsion said in an interview in the capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday, without giving the size of the contract. “Both will have a share in the market.”

ZTE, about one-third owned by the Chinese government, has worked with Ethiopia’s state-owned monopoly provider Ethio Telecom over the past six years to upgrade phone and Internet services in Africa’s second-most populous nation.

The companies will finance the project that includes more than doubling the number of mobile-phone users to 40 million by mid-2015, Debretsion said. “We are not investing; we are inviting companies to come with their finance,” he said. “That is why we are waiting for the negotiation.”

Agreements including technical details and how to divide the work between the companies should be made within two weeks, Debretsion said. ZTE said in May that expectations of growth in Ethiopia’s market justify investment in the industry.

Ethiopia, with a $32 billion economy, is Africa’s second-most populous country and it population is growing at 3.2 percent a year, the fifth-fastest in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The Horn of Africa nation is targeting economic growth of 14.9 percent over the next five years, former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in August.

Cashless payments sector in Ethiopia: Time to open up?

October 11th, 2012

Cashless payments sector in Ethiopia: Time to open up?


Source: This is Africa

Ethiopia is growing fast, but its mobile and electronic payments infrastructure is weak. Is it time for a more liberal approach to foreign investment?

Ethiopia appears to be doing something right. One of the world’s five fastest growing economies in 2010, it’s expected to reach 7 percent growth this year and next, and the government hopes for double digit growth in the medium term.

Ethiopia’s growth is surprising for a country lacking the natural resource bonanza driving many of Africa’s high performers. Stranger still, the revolution in mobile money, ICT and electronic payments revolution has played little role. Mobile penetration is very low against the regional average. Internet connections are slow and unreliable even by African standards, and content is censored.

A frosty investment climate is one of the reasons. Foreign investment in financial services is prohibited (but domestic, non-state providers exist). Financial services are concentrated in a few towns. Addis Ababa, the capital, accounts for nearly 40 percent of total branches of commercial banks. The country scores low on financial sophistication, technological readiness and innovation according to the African Development Bank, ranking 3.05 out of 7 compared to the continental average of 3.68.

In telecommunications, state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation dominates mobile, internet and telephone landscapes. ETC has had to outsource some of its services to France Télécom - perhaps signalling the dawn of a less hostile posture, as growth picks up and public expectations change. If this prompts a more liberal approach to areas like electronic payments, it could see Ethiopia’s performance shoot up further.

“When we look at the most successful electronic payment systems, they are those that are open, completely open, and the government sets standards for how different entities can participate,” says Elizabeth Buse, Visa’s group president for Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company’s fastest growing geographies. The acquisition of phone payment company Fundamo last year was a marker of its tech-savvy Africa expansion plans.

“Given its large population, given the great potential, Ethiopia would benefit from an open approach to electronic payment systems. Foreign investments and partnerships can help drive economic growth and deliver significant benefits to the Ethiopian people,” says Buse.

Mobile advocates point out that a 10 percent increase in mobile penetration contributes as much as 1.2 percent to GDP. “The combination of mobile and electronic payments compounds that” says Bill Gajda, Visa’s head of mobile product. Might the government’s posture to foreign investment in finance and communications change over time?

“There are a lot of different models being explored, and what we see - and I think Ethiopia won’t be an exception - is that over time, these models open up,” says Gajda. “Closed systems tend to not achieve the scale they want to, there isn’t the level of customer adoption, of direct foreign investment they are looking for, and they evolve over time to where they do bring in companies”.

In banking, there are signs of a thaw. Ecobank have said publicly they want a license in Ethiopia, suggesting the authorities may be planning to open up, according to Paul Wallace, Africa editor at The Banker. And perhaps Ethiopia’s plans to woo back the diaspora lend strength to arguments in favour of greater competitiveness in electronic payments. Many would be returning from Western countries and will want to bring their plastic back too.

Another version of this article appeared on The Financial Times

Number of Mobile Subscribers in Ethiopia tops 17 million - Ethio-Telecom

September 20th, 2012
An Ethiopian Priest talks on a mobile phone Photo: AP Photo Karel Prinsloo

Number of Mobile Subscribers in Ethiopia tops 17 million - Ethio-Telecom


State-run Ethio Telecom (formerly Ethiopia Telecom Corporation, ETC) has announced its operational and financial results for its fiscal year ended 30 June 2012. In a media briefing the monopoly operator’s CEO Bruno Duthoit confirmed that the carrier’s total mobile subscriber base reached 17.26 million users at the end of June, with monthly net additions running at an average of 450,000 per month over the past year. Taken overall, Ethio Telecom reported 18.28 million subscribers, up 59% year-on-year, including 805,000 fixed lines in service and 221,000 internet/data connections. Further, Duthoit said that his company has 2.44 million people regularly using its GPRS (mobile) service. Strong fixed and mobile growth has been achieved in part as a result of the telco’s targets within Ethiopia’s five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).

Ethio Telecom reported total revenue of ETB12.35 billion (USD691.79 million) in the last fiscal year, of which 66.60% was attributable to mobile, followed by interconnect (international services) which accounted for 22.35%. Earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was ETB8.87 billion, which was 71.8% of total revenue. The CEO noted that strong financial and subscriber growth during the year had been driven by the launch of new services and tariff packages, which offered users ‘more affordable and more diversified’ products. Some of the significant launches Duthoit said, included: value added services (such as USSD codes, call me back, credit transfer, GPRS, voicemail for post-paid); a new post-paid mobile offer to residential customers with a credit limit policy; a pre-paid bundle offer with voice, SMS and data; a new ADSL service offer with CPE customer premise equipment for residential customers; new 3G services with EV-DO dongle packages; and a new post-paid fixed line offer.

In addition to this, Ethio Telecom has embarked on major upgrade works focusing on fibre deployment, including an OPGW project with the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) to improve coverage, quality and reliability of its optical fibre network. It also carried out a 2G and 3G mobile network optimisation programme, improved network redundancy via new OPGW and microwave routes and completed rehabilitation work on around 1,000km of fibre-optic networks. Finally, the carrier also worked towards improving rural connectivity and has begun work to complete its ‘Schoolnet’ and ‘Woredanet’ connection projects.

Ethiopia: Although still at draft stage, new telecoms rules give cause for concern

July 11th, 2012

Although still at draft stage, new telecoms rules give cause for concern

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders wishes to correct a report published on its website on 7 June stating that the 2012 Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences had been ratified by the Ethiopian authorities. We understand that the document has not yet been approved, despite the fact that the agenda circulated to journalists covering Parliament on May 24 explicitly said: “Examine and Endorse a Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences”. More than 99 percent of the assembly’s members belong to the ruling party. Reporters Without Borders understands from media reports that the bill was drawn up by the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), tabled for discussion by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and has now been referred to the Science, Communication and Technology Affairs Standing Committee for further inspection.

The Ethiopian government’s position

Asked about the intent of the law and its potential to clamp down on communication, a government spokesman, Shimeles Kemal, told a Reporters Without Borders representative that ‘‘the compelling reasons behind the promulgation of this law are technological progress and the alarming increase in the incidence of illegal telephone services that bypass the national network, posing loss of revenue and national security risks”. He said his government wished to create no new offences but rather to address telecoms-related fraud that could not have been dealt with under existing laws.

It was wrong to assume that this law was intended to regulate media content one way or another, Shimeles said, adding: ‘‘It should be viewed as a legal framework that addresses the serious national security issues highlighted by the increasing merger of telecoms services with the Internet. Content-related matters are dealt with by our media laws.’’

‘‘The law was never meant to criminalize VoIP services such as Skype or others’’, he told Reporters Without Borders ‘‘Neither did it aim to restrict any-Internet-based voice service that takes place between PCs, PC to phone and Internet-based phone-to phone services. Had this been the case, the agency could have used existing laws to ban VoIP and charge users in court.”

Reporters Without Borders notes that an earlier order, No. 281/2002: “Proclamation to Provide for the Amendment of Telecommunications Proclamation” presents a danger to all users of Internet-based voice communication. Amendment 11 of the current 2002 law, under which no one has been convicted or sentenced yet, makes all communication by fax or voice via the Internet illegal and liable to a fine or a prison sentence of up to five years.

Reporters Without Borders still concerned

Reporters Without Borders still believes that the 2012 Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences as it is worded currently is disproportionately vague and could be applied to severely restrict the use of VoIP, ensuring the Ethio-Telecom network retains its service monopoly and maintains its revenue levels. The criminal law should be precise and be interpreted, we believe, as unambiguously as possible to protect people’s right to communicate using VoIP services.

Because of the way in which Ethiopia’s justice system has handled matters of freedom of expression in recent years, we take an extremely cautious view of this move by the government.

The articles in their current form are phrased too broadly and could have serious negative effects on how journalists and dissidents use communications via the Internet, putting them at a greater risk of surveillance and inevitable legal pitfalls. The current definition of telecommunications services and telecommunications equipment could cover blogging platforms and social networks, as pointed out by the OWNI website.

The risks for individuals cannot be underestimated. Article 5 of the second section of the bill, covering offences of illegal interception and access, provides for up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine for anyone who “without the authorization of the provider or lawful user, or any other competent authority ... illegally obtains access to any telecommunications system”.

In addition, article 6 of the second section of the bill specifies that anyone who uses the telecommunications network or apparatus to disseminate any “terrorizing” or “obscene” message, or uses the infrastructure for “any other illegal purpose” could be liable for a penalty of up to eight years’ imprisonment. The vagueness of this wording is a cause for concern. Broad interpretation of the 2009 anti-terrorism law has already led to the arrest and sentencing of journalists to long prison terms.

Article 10, paragraph four, can be understood to mean the provision and use of VoIP services (it does not specify whether this means paid-for as well as free of charge), whether intentionally or “by negligence”, are offences punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

(Paragraph 3/”Whosoever provides telephone call or fax services through the internet commits an offence and shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment from 3 to 8 years and with fine”.
Paragraph 4/ “Whosoever intentionally or by negligence obtains the service stipulated under sub-article (3) of this Article commits an offence and shall be punishable with imprisonment from 3 months to 2 years and with fine”.)

This article could have serious implications for Internet cafes and their customers. Internet cafes are the main point of Internet access for Ethiopians. The country’s connection coverage is extremely low – around 0.7 percent. Any measures designed to restrict VoIP use in Internet cafes would have an adverse effect on a considerable number of Ethiopian Internet users.

Equally alarming is what we believe are pervasive surveillance powers granted to the police by this bill. Under article 14, a police officer may request the court in writing for a covert search warrant “where he has reasonable grounds to believe that a telecom fraud offence has been committed or is likely to be committed.” It also allows evidence gathered through such interception or surveillance to be admissible.

The ministry would have excessive powers not only over businesses and institutions but also over individuals since the bill requires anyone who uses or holds any telecommunication equipment first to obtain a permit. Cases where this is waived are an exception (paragraph 3.3 of section two: the Ministry shall “prescribe types of telecommunication equipment the manufacturing, assembling, sale or the use of which shall not require permits”).

Lastly, it is regrettable that the draft has no safeguard clause designed to protect freedom of expression and excluding the use of VoIP from the bill’s scope.

Government ready to hold talks

Reporters Without Borders, acting as an international watchdog regarding legislation that could impinge on freedom of information, asks the Ethiopian authorities not to approve the ‘2012 Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences’ as it stands. The organization is willing to hold discussions with the government to try to clarify the bill and ensure it protects the basic rights of people to communicate while addressing the government’s concerns about cyber security.

On June 29, Shimeles reiterated to Reporters Without Borders his government’s readiness to work with international organizations that could lend technical expertise on guidelines for freedom of information and related legislation to ensure international best practice and standards are upheld. “We have worked in the past with international organizations and we still welcome those who want to engage in consultative discussions with a view to support the frameworks’ ability to promote and protect the right to information and media development,’’ he said ‘’We intend to do that while diligently working to address any loopholes that might undermine our national interests and security.”

Tecno Mobile Ethiopia to release first domestically assembled Smartphone

June 26th, 2012
Techno Mobile T1 cell phone. The company will release Techno T3 in Ethiopia Photo Techno Mobil

Tecno Mobile Ethiopia to release first domestically assembled Smartphone

Tecno Mobile Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based company, has said it will release the first domestically assembled Smartphone come July 2012.

The new phone, will be branded Tecno T3 and it will be an Android 2.3 based device. Android is a Linux-based operating system used in mobile devices including smart phones and tablet computers.

It is speculated that the device will be sold for an estimated price of ETB 6,000 to 8,000 (US$334 to US$445).

In the meantime, Tecno is carrying out a market study to find the most viable market price for the new product, according to Henry Yu, General Manager of Techno Ethiopia.

Tecno already has several phones in the Ethiopian market, all of which support the major national languages.

However, Henry Yu said that the new phone will only support the Amharic language for the time being.

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