Authority Plans to Issue New Telecom License within Six-month  

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia will complete the tendering process for a second new full-service telecom nationwide license on offer within six months, the sector regulator says.

Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) is pushing to issue a license for the second private operator after the previous tender sold only one of two licenses on offer.

The second license on offer again will be issued in the first half of the 2016 Ethiopian new year, which begins on Sept 9, Its Director-General Balcha Reba told State-news agency ENA.

Authorities awarded the first license to a consortium led by Kenya’s Safaricom in May 2021, after accepting an offer of about $850 million.

The consortium is now operating in the country under the name of Safaricom Telecom Ethiopia, alongside state-owned Ethio Telecom which had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly.

The ongoing tender for the second private license aims to open up one of Africa’s largest markets to further competition.

The ECA already set Sept 15 as the deadline for interested telecom operators to submit their qualifications. The process will proceed from the proposal submission stage to identifying three finalists, according to the director general.

The country’s third full telecom license will be granted to the winning operator within the first six months of the new Ethiopian year, Balcha said.

Safaricom’s winning bid of $850 million could serve as a guide for the price of the full-service telecom license B which includes mobile financial services.

Separately, authorities are also pushing on a tender to sell up to 40 percent of shares in the state-owned telecom monopoly, the Ethio-Telecom.

Timeline of telecom operator license 

June 13, 2019: parliament enacted the Communications Service Proclamation, paving the way for the establishment of a new, independent regulator, the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA).

Nov 27, 2020: the Authority officially launched a tender for two telecoms operator licenses following legislative and institutional reforms 

The bid attracted 12 global telecoms giants including MTN, Etisalat, Orange, and an international consortium of telecoms operators under the name, ‘the Global Partnership for Ethiopia’.

April 26, 2021: The Consortium and MTN were able to meet ECA’s criteria and submitted bids worth $850 million and $600 million, respectively.

May 27, 2021: Government awarded the first private telecoms license to Kenya’s Safaricom-led consortium. The second highest bidder, however, did not manage to win a license as its 600 million dollar offer was deemed inadequate by the authorities.

Sept 29, 2021: The telecommunication sector regulator opened the tendering process for the second new full-service telecom nationwide license.

Dec, 2021: The government suspended the bidding process for the second full nationwide telecom license heeding “concerns and requests” from prospective buyers – prompted by conflict in northern Ethiopia and global economic downturn.

Dec 6, 2022: Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia plc, the first private telco owned by ‘the Global Partnership for Ethiopia’, launched its operations.

June 30, 2023: The tender process for a second national telecoms license has been reinitiated with the launch of a request for qualifications.

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