A third Ethiopian operator – and second new entrant into the market – may not be far off. News reports indicate that regulator the Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA) is planning to issue an expression of interest early next month for the third telecom provider.
The ECA published a call for a stakeholder consultation process for the third telecommunications operating license in November 2022.
Describing this as the licensing process for “a third license or the second new full-service nationwide telecommunications license”, Balcha Reba, ECA Director General, has suggested that there is definitely room for a third operator and that international consultation companies have been asked to support the process.
The process looks like being a speedy one. The expression of interest will remain in place for one month. The license will be awarded via a competitive tender process that will take place in early 2023. Like Safaricom Ethiopia, which began rollout late last year, the new entrant will be allowed to provide mobile financial services – assuming it fulfils the requirements of the National Bank of Ethiopia.
This is apparently the third attempt to bring a new operator into the country. Earlier attempts were abandoned, possibly due to the conflict in the Tigray region, although this now appears to have stopped after an African Union-brokered peace deal.
The government is also in the process of selling a 40% stake in the state-owned Ethio Telecom.