The only operator present in Ethiopia is Ethio Telecom, also known as Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) and owned by the govenement. It's the only telecommunications services provider in Ethiopia at all, providing internet and telephone services on landlines and mobiles. It was managed 2010-12 by France Telecom, but is now back under the full control of the government.
State of service Edit
Penetration of mobile phones is low in the country: only about 4.5% of Ethiopian population own one. The mobile service is unreliable and often interrupted. The system is frequently out of work or overloaded, callers using both the landlines and mobile network are unable to connect, the situation is made worse by inclement weather. Frequent power outages and damages to fibreoptic cables add to the problems. But there is no open discussion or anyone admitting that the coverage and service is below par. Furthermore, there is no competition to the only operator as the govenment wants to retain the monopoly of Ethio Telecom to generate funds to build a railway line to Djibouti.
Coverage is very low outside the capital and provincial towns. 3G services started in 2008 only in major towns so far. The target of the govenment has been almost reached in 2015: 95% of the population are now in a 5 km radius to the next available phone line (being either a landline or within mobile coverage). Nevertheless, the maximum distance that people from rural communities have to travel for being able to use telecom services decreased from 30 km to 5 km within the last 10 years. This is in contrast to 725 base stations built in the capital Addis Abeba alone.
Use of VoIP services such as Skype and Google Talk was prohibited by telecommunications legislation in 2002. Personal use of these services was again legalized in 2012. But Ethio Telecom has revealed in a statement in 2016 that the company will implement a tool allowing it to charge for VoIP over-the-top (OTT) services such as Viber and WhatsApp. It's still unknown when and how this is to be done.
For a prepaid SIM card you need to be registered. As a visitor you need a photocopy of the face site of your passport, one or two passport sized photographs and to fill out their Customer Application Form (CAF) which can take a while.
As of summer 2016, Ethio Telecom stores, at least in Addis, did not require a passport copy or photos. They will take a picture of you at the store and scan your passport.
Ethio Telecom is introducing Equipment Identity Registration (EIR) to control the importation of untaxed mobile handsets. This technology allows the registration of a mobile phone’s IMEI once a SIM card is inserted. This information will be stored in a database which would allow Ethio Telecom and customs and revenues authorities to track and block or lock untaxed or stolen devices. This may lead to problems for travellers as they have usually not 'imported' their devices.
The Ethiopian government through Ethio Telecom imposes nationwide, politically motivated internet filtering. Any attempts to circumvent Ethio Telecom surveillance and censorship of the internet can be considered as a criminal offense carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years. However, most blocked sites are run by those Ethiopians abroad, who are highly critical of the government.
As mentioned Ethio Telecom is the only player in the country.
2G is on 900 MHz and 3G up to HSPA+ on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE was launched in Addis Abeba only in March 2015 on 1800 MHz. 4G/LTE is available for prepaid in the capital.
It also operates a network in CDMA/EVDO technology, that is not compatible with GSM technology.
A SIM card costs 30 birr and contains 15 birr starter credit. It's available in Ethio Telecom shops . For the mandatory registration you need a copy of your passport key page and a passport photo. Some stores are able to take a photo and copy a page, but you should not rely on it and can speed up the process by bringing yours.
Usually only standard size SIM cards are available. Micro size is hard to find, nano is non-existent. But most often the store or another cell phone shop has a cutting device to cut you SIM to size. The Ethio Telecom in Bole charged 20 birr to cut the SIM card to nano size.
There is still no shop at the airport, you'll need to go downtown. Be aware, that there are touts at the airport or on the streets asking US$20 or more for a SIM card registered on someone else. You'll pay 15 times as much as the official price just to save some time. Furthermore, it's illegal and your SIM may be shut off.
Recharges and validity Edit
Recharge vouchers are available all over the country in 5, 10, 15, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000 Birr. Vouchers of 5-100 Birr give the equivalent number of days of service, those of 250 Birr or more have a validity of 120 days. The maximum to be accumulated validity period is 120 days.
After that your line will be open only to incoming services for 11 months. After another month of grace period without a top-up, you line will suspended forever.
To recharge your account use the USSD command *805*<voucher code># then dial.
For balance inquiry press *804# then dial.
Data feature packages Edit
The default rate is 0.35 Birr per MB and you can book these data packages:
- daily packages (for 24 hours):
- 25 MB: 5 Birr
- 55 MB: 10 Birr
- 100 MB: 15 Birr
- weekly packages (for 7 days):
- 100 MB: 20 Birr
- 250 MB: 50 Birr
- monthly packages (for 30 days):
- 500 MB: 85 Birr
- 1 GB: 165 Birr
- 2 GB: 320 Birr
- 4 GB: 600 Birr
- 8 GB: 1000 Birr
- 10 GB: 1200 Birr
- 20 GB: 2200 Birr
- 30 GB: 3000 Birr
Use the following steps to buy mobile internet packages: Dial *999# ----> enter 1 for package offer ----> enter 1 for yourself ----> enter 2 for internet package ----> package type (enter 1 for daily, 2 for weekly & 3 for monthly) ----> then select your preferable package offer. You can subscribe to any particular package repeatedly.
2G customers can subscribe only packages less than or equal to 500 MB. 3G customers can subscribe all packages. 4G customers can subscribe only monthly packages. VAT of 15% are included in prices above.
More info Edit
- APN: etc.com with username etc and password etc
- Website in English (quite buggy): http://www.ethiotelecom.et