Telecommunications in Ethiopia is a monopoly in the control of Ethio Telecom, formerly the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC). As of 2012, 20.524 million cellular phones and 797,500 main line phones were in use.
The telephone system in Ethiopia consists of open wire and microwave radio relay systems adequate for government use. Domestic systems are open wire; microwave radio relay; radio communication in the HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies; two domestic satellites provide the national trunk service. International systems are open wire to Djibouti and Sudan; microwave radio relay to Djibouti and Kenya; and satellite earth stations are 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Pacific Ocean).
The Ethiopian dial plan changed on 17 September 2005. City codes (i.e., internal prefixes) changed from two digits to three (or, from outside Ethiopia, one digit to two). Phone numbers changed from six digits to seven.
In 2007, there were 89 internet hosts. There were 447,300 internet users in 2009. In 2010, just 0.75 percent of the population were using the Internet, one of the lowest rates in the world. Ethiopia's country code (TLD) is .et.
The first telegraph line in Ethiopia was constructed in the years 1897 - 1899 between the cities of Harar and the capital Addis Ababa. This was extended in 1904 by a line that ran from Addis Ababa through Tigray into Eritrea and to Massawa; and the next year by a line again from Addis Ababa to Gore in the province of Illubabor and Jimma in Kaffa.
The first telephones were brought by Ras Makonnen from Italy in 1890, and connected between the Palace and the Imperial treasury; the sound of disembodied voices frightened the local priests, who thought it was the work of demons. The Emperor Menelik II responded to their protests with disdain, and later used the telephone to give orders to his provincial governors. Emperor Haile Selassie had begun the process of introducing radio transmitters to the country for civilian and military use in the years before the Italian invasion.
According to the ETC, the average rural inhabitant of Ethiopia has to walk 30 kilometers to the nearest phone. The ETC announced 7 September 2006 a program to improve national coverage, and reduce the average distance to 5 kilometers.
Since 26 September 2017, it is not possible to buy and use Ethio Tel SIM cards in mobile devices that haven’t been purchased in Ethiopia or registered with the authorities. Local advice suggests travellers should register their phone in the customs arrival hall at Bole airport on arrival if they intend to use a local SIM card. For travellers, local prepaid SIMs are available at small shops, Ethio Telecom Kiosks and hotels. Satellite phones may require letter of permission from the ETC prior to bringing such phones through customs.
Use of voice over IP services such as Skype and Google Talk was prohibited by telecommunications legislation in 2002. Personal use of these services was legalised by the Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences of 2012.
Since the changes and upgrade of equipment in the mid-2000 the telecommunication network is frequently out of work or overloaded, callers using both the landlines and mobile network are unable to connect, the situation is made worse by inclement weather. The ETC has not addressed this issue publicly nor admitted that the coverage and service is below par.
Ethiopian telecom has launched the Fourth Generation (4G) Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service on March 21, 2015 in line with the help of the Chinese company HUAWEI.
Ethio-Telecom Corporate Compunction Officer, Abdurahim Mohammed, stated that the rural telecom access within 5 km radius service has currently reached 96 per cent. As part of the efforts to expand its service and improve network quality, Ethio Telecom had built 725 stations in Addis Ababa alone during the past 20 years, he said. Damages on fiber optic cables and power interruptions are among the challenges the service provider faced in its expansion and network quality improvement efforts, he said.
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