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Blackouts, fiber optic theft blamed for severe connection problems

A new major telecom expansion project that will allow the network to handle 36 million more mobile phones has begun. Two Chinese telecom companies, ZTE and Huawei will each work on half of the expansion.

The two companies began implementing the project last Wednesday, according to Abdurahim Ahmed, Head of Corporate Communications at ethio telecom.
Updating the core network for mobile phone service, transmission lines and fiber optic cables are some of the improvements that will be made. They plan to use the latest technology to upgrade radio access, power supply, fixed lines and make Internet protocol upgrades.
Information systems will also be enriched to improve Internet service, customer billing and management, the call center, security, video surveillance and other support services.
According to Abdurahim, the project should be completed within a year and Huawei agreed to finish their work in eight months.
That may be a challenge with the road and railway construction going on all over the country but Abdurahim says he expects that people will show the same patience as they showed with the development of the railway and other city infrastructure construction.
When everything is completed network coverage should reach 85 percent but some current issues are said to be hindering service.
“Quality isn’t in the hands of ethio telecom only,”Abdurahim said. “The network quality we are noticing is because of blackouts and theft of fiber optics,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.
“Both mobile and Internet networks cannot work if there is no power,” he said. Ethio telecom bought 350 generators to support some of the 4,000 towers the state monopoly placed around Ethiopia to improve service, he added.
The head said fiber optics theft has escalated from about 34 incidents annually about four years ago, to around 60 thefts a month. There are 12,000km of fiber optics, throughout the country and local regions have the responsibility of maintaining them, Abdurahim said.
ZTE’s role will be to introduce the third generation (3G) Internet service, which formerly was limited to the Addis Ababa . Meanwhile, Huwaei will introduce fourth generation (4G) service to Addis for the first time.
In June of this year, Huawei, signed 50 percent of the USD 1.6 billion telecom expansion project (USD 800 million) and a month later ZTE also inked an agreement to take up the other 50 percent.
As part of the government’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to increase the mobile network capacity to 59 million, the two companies are responsible for increasing the mobile subscriptions by 18 million each. Currently, there are 23 million mobile subscribers in the country.