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Telecommunications in Ethiopia is currently a monopoly in the control of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC); all telephone service and internet access requires ETC to be involved. As of 2006, 866,700 cellular phones and 725,000 main line phones were in use.[1]



The telephone system consists of open wire and microwave radio relay system 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 Sudan and Djibouti; microwave radio relay to Kenya and Djibouti; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Pacific Ocean).[1]

The Ethiopian dial plan changed on September 17, 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. A web-based program which converts old telephone numbers to new numbers is available here.

As of 2007, there were 89 internet hosts.[1] As of 2005, there were 164,000 internet users. 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.[2] 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.[3]

Current status

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.[4]

Since 2008 CDMA2000 and WCDMA is available in certain areas.


  1. ^ a b c CIA World Factbook.
  2. ^ Chris Proutky, Empress Taytu and Menelik II: Ethiopia 1883-1910 (Trenton: The Red Sea Press, 1986), pp. 237ff.
  3. ^ Richard Pankhurst, Economic History of Ethiopia (1800 - 1935) (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University Press, 1968), pp. 341, 606.
  4. ^ ETC to make 10,000 rural kebeles beneficiaries of telephone services (Walta)

See also

External links



Internet in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second lowest Internet penetration rate in sub-Saharan Africa (only Sierra Leone’s is lower) and is currently attempting a broad expansion of access throughout the country.[1] These efforts have been hampered by the largely rural makeup of the Ethiopian population and the government’s refusal to permit any privatization of the telecommunications market.[1] Only 360,000 people had Internet access in 2008, a penetration rate of 0.4 percent.[2] The state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation is the sole Internet service provider (ISP) in the country. Internet cafés are the main source of access in urban areas, and an active community of bloggers and online journalists now plays an important role in offering alternative news sources and venues for political dialogue. However, three-quarters of the country’s Internet cafés are in the capital city, Addis Ababa, and even there access is often slow and unreliable.25 A test conducted by a Media Ethiopia researcher in July 2007 determined that the average connectivity speed was 5 KBps and that Internet service in most cafés was down between 10 and 20 percent of the time.[3]

In 2005, Ethiopia announced plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three years to connect all of the country’s schools, hospitals, and government offices, and most of its rural population, to broadband Internet via satellite or fiber-optic cable.[4] Between 2005 and 2007, the government spent USD40 million to install WoredaNET and SchoolNET, two nati[5]onwide networks meant to increase connectivity.[3] WoredaNET provides e-mail, videoconferencing and Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to local governments, and SchoolNet provides streaming audio and video through a downlink-only VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellite. The government has pledged to dedicate 10 percent of its annual budget to the development and maintenance of these networks, which are managed by the government-run Ethiopian ICT Development Authority (EICTDA).[3]

Ethiopia has made several attempts to increase available broadband by laying 4000 kilometers of fiber optic cable along the country’s major highways, by making overtures to the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and by connecting Addis Ababa to existing fiber optic networks in Port Sudan and Djibouti. These ventures have had mixed success. The domestic network is not yet operational, though the government has promised to lay 10,000 more kilometers of cable by 2010.[3] Once the cable has been laid, Ethiopia will consider opening the network to a second, private operator.[6] EASSy has been delayed multiple times by disagreements among the member countries (though at the time of writing it was scheduled to be completed by June 2010[7]), and the line to Djibouti was sabotaged and looted, allegedly by ONLF and OLF rebels, shortly after its completion in 2006.[3]

Currently satellite Internet is available to some large corporations, but individuals are not permitted to have private satellite connections. The ETC also bans the use of VoIP in Internet cafés and by the general population,35 though its web site lists VoIP as part of the company’s future broadband strategy.36

Regulation and ISPs

The state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) and the Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency (ETA) have exclusive control of Internet access throughout the country. The ETA is not an independent regulatory body, and its staff and telecommunications policies are controlled by the national government.37 It grants the ETC a monopoly license as Ethiopia’s sole ISP and seller of domain names under the country code top-level domain, “.et.” Internet cafés and other resellers of Internet services must be licensed by the ETA and must purchase their access through the ETC.38 Individual purchasers must also apply for Internet connections through the ETC. Though Ethiopia has considered some limited privatization of the telecommunications market, these plans are on hold until at least 201039 despite acknowledgments that the ETC has not been an effective service provider.40


The Ethiopian government maintains strict control over access to the Internet and online media, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and free access to information. ONI conducted testing on Ethiopia’s sole ISP, the ETC, in 2008 and 2009. The ETC’s blocking efforts appear to focus on independent media, blogs, and political reform and human rights sites, though the filtering is not very thorough. Many prominent sites that are critical of the Ethiopian government remain available within the country. Ethiopia’s current approach to filtering can be somewhat spotty, with the exception of the blanket block on two major blog hosts. Much of the banned political and human rights–related content is available at sites that are not blocked. The authors of the blocked blogs have in many cases continued to write for an international audience, apparently without sanction.[1]

The prime target of Ethiopia's filtering is political bloggers, many of whom oppose the current regime. Ethiopia blocks all blogs hosted at and at, a site that aggregates Ethiopian news and has space for blogs and forums. Though many of the filtered Nazret blogs are critical of the government, the scope of the filtering is wide. Blocked Blogspot sites include Ethiopian and international commentators on politics and culture, including popular blogs EthioPundit and Enset.[1]

Web sites of opposition political parties appear to be a priority for blocking, as are sites for groups that represent ethnic minorities within Ethiopia.[1]

Many independent news sites covering Ethiopian politics or compiling international and local coverage are blocked, including CyberEthiopia, EthioMedia, EthioX, and EthioIndex. But some media sites carrying news and editorials that are unfavorable to the Ethiopian government are available, including Addis Voice and Ethiopian Review. International news sites such as CNN and Voice of America radio are not blocked.[1]

Sites about some political dissidents are blocked, though information about them is available via a number of human rights Web sites that are not blocked, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and various Ethiopian-focused rights groups. Reporters Without Borders, which has chronicled Ethiopian Internet filtering on its Web site (, is not banned.[1]

Major search engines, including Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others, were available in Ethiopia, and no e-mail sites have been blocked. Though VoIP has been banned within the country, sites offering that service, such as Skype, were not filtered. The ETC did not block censorship circumvention tools such as, and Internet users within Ethiopia appear to have found alternative means of accessing banned sites.[1]51


In late December 2006, the ETA began requiring Internet cafés to log the names and addresses of individual customers, apparently as part of an effort to track users who engaged in illegal activities online. The lists are to be turned over to the police, and Internet café owners who fail to register users face prison.47 Bloggers believe that their communications are being monitored,48 and the state maintains the right to shut down Internet access for resellers or customers who do not comply with security guidelines. The government has closed Internet cafés in the past for offering VoIP services and for other policy violations.49


This article was originally adapted from an OpenNet Initiative report, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ethiopia". OpenNet Initiative. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "Internet". International Telecommunications Union. 13 February 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Kinde, Samuel (November 2007). "Internet in Ethiopia - Is Ethiopia Off-line or Wired to the Rim?". Media Ethiopia. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  4. ^ Ian Limbach, “Waking up to a laptop revolution: From grand infrastructure projects to small grassroots initiatives in education, technology is bringing about change in the developing world,” Financial Times, March 29, 2006. See also “Ethiopian firm launches standard virtual internet service,” Xinhua News Agency, February 6, 2006.
  5. ^ Malakata, Michael. "Africa's EASSY cable set for operations in 2009". ComputerWorld. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ethiopia: No new mobile operator until 2010". Reuters. 31 October 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "EASSy aims for June 2010 ETA". MyBroadband. 21 June 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2010. 


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