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 On reform track

 On reform track

Ethio Telecom warns against misinformation in telecom reform program

The sole telecom operator, Ethiopia Telecom, has urged various government authorities and individuals to refrain from making erroneous statements on the on-going telecom reform program aimed at ending the state monopoly on the telecom sector.

The disgruntled CEO of Ethio Telecom, FrehiwotTamiru, informed various government organizations and officials to halt disseminating wrong information about the privatization and liberalization of the telecom sector. In a press conference held on Thursday at her office,Frehiwot said that to have a successful telecom reform program giving the right and timely information to the media and the public is vital. However, she said that irrelevant authorities who are not involved in the privatization and liberalization process are giving out wrong information that confuses the public, partners and employees of Ethio Telecom.

“Individuals who do not know how the telecom sector functions are making press statements that confuse stakeholders. What concerns me most is the perception of my employees. Whenever there is talks about reform employees panic as they had bad experience in the past,” she said. “So far, the employees and management of EthioTeleom are doing their job properly. We have been providing information to our employees about the telecom reform program. The remarkable performance we achieved in the first quarter is a proof,” she added.

However, Frehiwot noted that some authorities who do not have the mandate are making erroneous statements that erode the confidence of our employees and partners. “We have notified all the relevant bodies to rectify this mistake,” she told the press conference.

Frehiwot dismissed the media report that claims that two international telecom giants have started negotiations with the Ethiopian government to buy Ethio Telecom. Frehiwot said there has not been any negotiation with any of the international telecom companies.  According to Frehiwot it is the Ministry of  Finance which is leading the Telecom Reform program. “It is the Ministry of Finance who is in charge of the privatization process. The ministry has invited international consulting firms to present their expression of interest to do the consulting work on the privatization process. It is not EthioTeleocom’s mandate to disclose how much of the stake is going to be privatized and who is going to buy the stake,” she said.

With regards to the telecom liberalization process Frehiwot admitted that two telecom operators would join the market. “The government has decided to give permits to two telecom operators. It is the regulatory body that would issue the operator license,” she said.

The government has established a new regulatory organ of the telecom sector, Ethiopian Communications Agency, which will soon give a presser on its mission and planned activities. 

Frehiwot disclosed that based on the government’s telecom reform policy Ethio Telecom is preparing itself for the competitive market. “We drafted our three year business strategy dubbed “Bridge” based on the government’s policy that would enable us to become competent, competitive and preferred telecom operator,” she said.

According to her, it would take some time to grant the telecom operators license to the new entrants and for the operators to commence work in Ethiopia. In the meantime,Ethio Telecom has hired KPMG to carry out asset valuation work. “We need to know the value of our assets and KPMG has commenced work,” she said. 

Ethio Telecom has presented its first quarter business performance report to the media. The company has amassed 10.1 billion birr revenue from the month of July to September 2019, achieving 98 percent of its target. Revenue grew by 21 percent compared to the same period last year. The company earned 41.15 million USD from international business, a whopping surge of 129 percent.

The company settled 141.5 million USD foreign debt. “We had problems in serving our loans in the past. But now we are paying back our loams according to schedule. This has helped us to improve our relationship with our partners,” Frehiwot said.

Ethio Telecom increased its number of customers to 44.4 million-42.9 million mobile voice subscribers, 21.6 million data and internet, and one million fixed line. Currently, there are 51.8 million devices on the company’s network-32 percent smart phone, 51 basic and 16 percent feature. Tele density has increased from 41.1 percent to 45 percent.

Frehiwot attributed the outstanding performance to the discounts and new products and services the company introduced, change in leadership and dedication and hard work of the employees and management.

The CEO said that the company would focus on improving the quality of its telecom service by expanding and up grading its telecom network. “We are undertaking various network expansion work to cater the growing demand for mobile, data and internet service,” she said.

Delay in land provision, telecom fraud, and theft are some of the major challenges the company is facing.

The company recently paid a three month salary bonus to its employees. The company has more than 34,000 permanent and contract employees, 18,800 of them guard the telecom infrastructure stretching all over the country.