Ethiopia is set to welcome a third telecom operator in 2023, less than a year after awarding the country’s first-ever competitively-tendered Unified Telecommunications Operator License (also known as “License A”) to a private consortium operating under the name Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia in 2022.
The Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) is now preparing to issue an Expression of Interest in early February 2023 for the third telecom provider.
Per Balcha Reba, ECA’s Director General, “Preparations are being made to float an expression of interest to bring potential investors who can buy the third license or the second new full-service license.” The ECA will grant the license through a competitive procurement process during the first quarter of 2023. If successful, this will be the third time the ECA has attempted to award the license, after previous failures in 2020 and 2021.
The authority will begin by posting the Expression of Interest at the beginning of February and reviewing responses from stakeholders in March. In addition to providing telecommunications services, the new entrant will also be allowed to offer mobile financial services, subject to fulfilling the requirements of the National Bank of Ethiopia.
The introduction of a third telecom operator is expected to increase competition and drive down prices for consumers, while also improving the overall quality of service in the country. It is also hoped that the new operator will bring in additional investment and technological expertise, further boosting the development of Ethiopia’s telecom sector.
In November 2022, ECA is reported to have foreseen at least four unified telecom operators as necessary for Ethiopia, given the population growth and diversifying digital service demands. An operator is estimated to serve 30 to 40 million people in the country.