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Ethiopia: Ethio-Telecom Upgrade to Improve Speed, Quality
Source: Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)
Source Date: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: Ethiopia
Created: Mar 11, 2013

Ethio-telecom will upgrade the current telecommunications infrastructure to 3G LTE (long-term evolution) networks, from the current 3G network. The upgrade is estimated to come at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars.

The state-owned telecom monopoly announced plans to divide the country into 11 infrastructure zones, two months ago, in order to better manage each network. The zones are to be distributed between Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corporation, which are presently bidding for the network and upgrade expansion project.

"Ethio-telecom is undertaking a technical evaluation of the proposals submitted by the two companies." Mesfin Belachew (PhD), e-government directorate director at the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT), told Fortune.

3G LTE is a wireless broadband technology, designed to support roaming internet access using cell phones and handheld devices. Its structural design is based on an Internet Protocol (IP), and unlike many other cellular IPs, LTE supports browsing and downloading at 300 megabits a second.

The two-year project is aimed at doubling the existing 20 million mobile users by the 2014/15 fiscal year, and alleviating the present network problems.

In May 2012, ethio-telecom announced that it was re-launching its 3G network to allow its clients to benefit from a more efficient service. However, the 3G technology, which was expected to provide users with quality network service, failed to materialise.

"Network problems will greatly ease as soon as this new network becomes operational," said Mesfin.

The current system creates poor quality service, since it does not have a smooth transition when a call transits from one vendor's infrastructure to another's.

Those currently considered as vendors in Ethiopia, are: Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens and ZTE; each have set up networks for ethio-telecom. However, the new zoning system, that is to be applied, will only allow for one sole vendor to give a service, within any given circle.

To date, there are around 16 circles, which cover limited areas and are occupied by a variety of vendors.

The new network is expected to be six times faster than the industry average 3G download speeds.

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