Authorities in Ethiopia confirmed plans to break up the country’s telecommunications monopoly and issue licences to two new entrants in Q1 2020, with MTN, Orange and Vodacom among the likely contenders.

In a statement, the Ministry of Finance of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, said state-owned Ethio Telecom will be split into two. One part of the business will take control of the services and retail side, while the other will manage the country’s mobile and fixed network infrastructure and supply new entrants on a wholesale basis.

While making changes to the composition of the incumbent, the government is in the process of establishing an independent communications regulator which will issue the new licences.

The ministry expects the process to bring significant investment into the country and improve the quality, speed and scale of network coverage. These elements, it added, would close digital gaps and prepare it for “high tech industrialisation”.

GSMA Intelligence estimated Ethio Telecom had 43 million connections (excluding IoT) at end Q2. Of these, 96 per cent were prepaid with less than 9 per cent on 4G.

“To ensure the success of the partial privatisation process, the government will adopt competitive process that is open and transparent and properly manages the due diligence and bidding process,” the Ministry stated.

As rumours on the detail of the country’s new policies emerged over the last year, executives from MTN, Vodacom and Orange have all expressed an interest in making a move in the market.