Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Nokia Network to Be Replaced in Capital

Nokia's telecom network in Addis Abeba, which covers areas, including; Ascot, Kolfe Keranio, Alem Bank, Mekanisa, Lebu, Jomo, Hanamariam and Akaki, will be replaced over the coming five months, stated officials at ethio-telecom.

These networks are a decade old and use outdated technology that needs to be upgraded, according to Abdurahim Ahmed, public relations head at ethio-telecom.

The network is going to be replaced by that of ZTE, a source close to the issue who wished to remain anonymous told Fortune. However, higher officials at ethio-telecom and the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT) have both stated that this has not yet been decided.

Currently, the partly state-owned ZTE corporation, one of China's largest phone equipment producers, and Huwawei Technologies Corporation, the largest telecommunications equipment provider globally, are negotiating with ethio-telecom, for a two-year, 1.3 million dollar network expansion project.

The project aims to double mobile subscribers, from 20 million to 40 million, by 2015. Nokia's network replacement is part of this expansion program, according to Abdurahim.

Furthermore, ethio-telecom plans to restructure the country into 11 telecom infrastructure zones, from the 16 that existed previously, limiting the number of vendors in each zone to just one.

This will enable ethio-telecom to decide how to divide up the work between Huwawei and ZTE, once negotiations are complete.

The zones will be divided based on demography, customer base and geographic location. Addis Abeba will occupy just one circle, meaning that either ZTE or Huwawei will act as the sole vendor there.

If ZTE is indeed replacing Nokia's network in Addis, then it would mean that it has been given the responsibility of handling the entirety of Addis Abeba's network.

Its networks already cover a large area of the capital, as it has been working with ethio-telecom for the past six years.

However, officials at the Ministry have stated that no decision has been made yet to which company Addis Abeba's network will go to.

"Currently ZTE has the infrastructure to provide 3G services around areas allocated to Nokia and throughout the entire city, which will be considered when making the final decision. However, there is no final agreement with any one of the companies," Debretsion Gebremichael, Minister of Communication and Information Technology, told Fortune.

"Both Huwawei and ZTE have their own proposals for the expansion project and the decision of their market and geographic area will be decided later," he added.

Currently Addis Abeba's network is covered by ZTE and Nokia, whilst Huwawei provides network on the outskirts of the capital. Countrywide; Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens and ZTE, all provide networks for ethio-telecom.

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