Four million mobile phones will be out of service as Ethiopia is on the way to implement Equipment Identity Registration System (EIRS). Phones, whose International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is not identified by the System, will be obsolete. In this respect, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) has already prepared a new directive which will support the enforcement of the new system.
The new system, which was said to enter into implementation last month, was delayed as EthioTelecom and local mobile assemblers are yet to agree on how to replace the four million phones.
According to industry sources, the government and local assemblers will share the cost where users of unregistered mobile phones will be given the chance to exchange the unregistered mobile phones with the registered ones.
“We are yet to agree on the terms,” an industry source said. For instance, as one option, Ethio Telecom would share 55 percent of the cost while the assemblers will take the rest.
But this will be difficult for the local assemblers as most of them are not operational at the moment because of shortage of hard currency, said the same source.
“This was one of the reasons behind the delay on the approval of the directive,” the same source told The Reporter.
Currently, there are around 14 local mobile assemblers registered.
The directive by MoCIT is expected to be signed after reaching an agreement with local assemblers.
“There are things we should be prepared for before approving the directive,” an official from the Ministry told The Reporter.
According to studies conducted by local assemblers association, close to 65 percent of Ethiopian mobile market is filled by contraband mobile phones smuggled from neighboring countries. The remaining 31 percent of the market is commanded by 14 assemblers working in the mobile industry. Out of the 65 percent, the IMEI of some four million mobile phones could not be identified by the new System.
Companies like Tecno Mobile, in addition to the local market, are exporting mobile phones to a number of African countries. For this year alone, the company is expected to generate 40 million dollars from the export market.
Over the past six months, the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) announce that it has seized 83 million birr worth of contraband imported electronics, one-fifth of the total contraband seized by the Authority.
Mobile services began in 1999 with a capacity of 36,000 lines in Addis Ababa. Now over 47 million subscribers are registered for mobile services and there are 14.7 million data and internet users in Ethiopia.
The lowest levels of smartphone ownership are in poorer countries and are concentrated in sub Saharan Africa. In this respect, smartphone ownership in Ethiopia stands at four percent while Tanzania has 11 percent, according to Pew Research Center, an American think tank, which is based in Washington DC.