Ethio Telecom, a state-owned operator, launched a 5G mobile phone service on Monday, putting it one step ahead of new entrants in an industry that has been closed to international players.
Next-generation 5G networks, which can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G, are seen as critical for emerging technologies such as self-driving cars, as well as enabling communication and interconnectivity between smart devices.
According to Ethio Telecom Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Frehiwot Tamru, the service will first be available in the capital Addis Ababa before spreading to the rest of the country.
“The 5G service is now available in select areas of Addis Ababa,” she said at a launch event. “We will have 150 5G sites in Addis Ababa in the next 12 months.”
Ethio Telecom, which has 64 million subscribers across the nation, said in a separate statement that China’s Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) was its equipment supplier for the network.
It recorded a 6.7% rise in revenues to 28 billion birr ($544.40 million) in its half year to December 31.
The government launched a tendering process for selling a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom to private investors last June.
In March, the government said it had postponed the planned partial privatisation because of the prevailing economic environment domestically and globally.