Towers, assets and interconnections have yet to be agreed on
Safaricom Ethiopia has agreed in principle to share cell sites and tower assets with rival Ethio Telecom. “The deal is very important and critical for our commercial viability and launch. Hopefully [we will launch] soon but we don’t have a date yet,” said Michael Joseph, Group Chairman of Kenya-based Safaricom.
According to Business Insider Africa, the final agreement remains in the balance. “We are yet to sign a final agreement,” said Safaricom Ethiopia’s public relations manager Tewedaj Eshetu. Safaricom ET was expected to launch a commercial service this month, but work concluding the deal with Ethio Telecom has delayed that, said the report.
Safaricom’s latest infrastructure share deal in Ethiopia follows a five-year infrastructure lease agreement with Ethiopian Electric Power. In February, Safaricom unveiled its first data centre in Addis Ababa ahead of its anticipated launch. The telco spent $100 million on a facility built in China by Huawei and Nokia and shipped over in modules to be assembled on site. It plans to build two more data centres in the next five years. Ethiopia’s capital is enjoying a surge of activity with an influx of data centres with data centre and comms specialists Raxio, Wingu.Africa and RedFox are also developing facilities.
Upon launch, Safaricom Ethiopia will become the first privately-owned telecom firm in Ethiopia, following a recent privatisation exercise by the government. Until last year government-owned Ethio Telecom had a monopoly in the country. However, in May 2021 a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom, Vodafone and Japan’s Sumitomo were awarded a license to operate in the country.
The consortium, which included development finance agency CDC Group, paid $850 million (€750m) for the license and plans to invest more than $8 billion (€7 billion) in the country’s digital infrastructure. The telco officially launched services in March. MTN had also bid to win the operating license, but lost to the consortium bid. The Government is also looking to sell off a stake in Ethio Telecom, for which Orange is interested in bidding. The government had intended to issue a license for a third operator to enter the country, but has since postponed the plans.