Ethiopia opens mobile licensing bids

Ethiopia started a highly anticipated tender for two new mobile licenses in the country, inviting international operator groups to submit their final pitch by a deadline of March 5, 2021.

In a statement, the Ethiopian communications authority said the nationwide licenses would be awarded through a competitive bidding process, with conditions to be provided to companies upon request until December 10.

The authority hopes to entice “world-class telecommunications operators” to enter the market to compete with the established and currently sole supplier, Ethio Telecom.

During the first registration phase, a total of 12 players submitted expressions of interest, including Orange; MTN Group; STC; Etisalat; and Global Partnership for Ethiopia, a consortium consisting of Vodafone Group, Vodacom and Safaricom.

The privatization of the sector has been in the works since 2018, when authorities raised the prospect of welcoming foreign investment in Ethio Telecom, a process running concurrently with the allocation of new licenses.

Full terms and conditions for new entrants were not disclosed by the Authority, but several media reports over the past two years have speculated that this could include commitments related to the use of domestic companies for specific infrastructure, and restrictions or bans on the launch of mobile money services.

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