- Mobile operator Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) has entered into a euro 40 million deal to upgrade the country's poor GSM network. The system is to be up and running - in the Addis Ababa region - already at the end of the year.
The GSM/GPRS mobile phone network deal was announced by the Finland-based company Nokia today. Ethiopian mobile operator ETC had "selected Nokia to supply and deploy GSM network equipment, including the Nokia Connect GSM solution for optimised network coverage, in a deal valued at euro 40 million," the Finish company said.
The agreement called for Nokia, and its main sub-contractor LeadCom Integrated Solutions, to supply both GSM core and radio equipment to upgrade part of ETC's existing network. Also included are GPRS for advanced data services and Nokia's Operations Support Systems (OSS).
Deliveries to ETC are set to "start immediately with the system targeted for operation in December, initially in the Addis Ababa region," according to the Finish telecom company. Training was also to be provided "to help keep the network running at peak performance."
The Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation is the country's monopoly telecom company, which has a monopoly in providing a national landline and mobile phone network. EthioMobile, the mobile division of ETC, remains the country's only mobile operator. A slow and partial privatisation of ETC was started by Ethiopian authorities two years ago.
ETC has been repeatedly criticised for its poor performance in delivering telecom services. The company still has less than 1 percent coverage among Ethiopia's potential fixed line customers. Mobile coverage has mostly been limited to the Addis Ababa region and the customers base is low, compared to other African nations.
Since ETC's privatisation efforts started, both Sweden's Ericsson and China's ZTE have been contracted to improve Ethiopia's limited GSM network. In May last year, ZTE was awarded a US$ 29 million contract to increase the coverage of Ethiopia's GSM network from 50,000 to 200,000 lines.
Now, Finish Nokia is to improve EthioMobile's GSM network. This is the first time Nokia is to operate in the African Horn and East African region, but ETC nevertheless believes it has struck a favourable deal. According to Nokia, its solution will enable ETC to "lower network-related expenditures and bring mobility to additional mobile users in a cost-efficient and timely manner."
Nokia is to provide a full range of GSM and GPRS network infrastructure, including base stations. The company is also to provide implementation of the network, "including civil works, network planning, implementation and project management for fast quality ramp-up of the solution," according to a press release.
- We are very happy to welcome ETC as a new GSM customer for Nokia, says Walid Moneimne of Nokia. "We are gratified that Ethiopia Telecom has chosen Nokia as one of its main GSM suppliers and a trusted partner for the future of its network. East Africa is an important market for us, and this deal is a key milestone in Nokia's network business in Africa, demonstrating our clear and strong commitment to this crucial marketplace," he adds.
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