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Ethiopia’s first private telecom operator is launching its service in the eastern city of Dire Dawa ahead of the capital.

“Safaricom Ethiopia is looking forward to switching on our network and services, starting with Dire Dawa from August 2022 and 24 other cities in phases across the country in the coming months. Currently, we are in a testing period,” Matthew Harrison-Harvey, Chief External Affairs and Regulatory Officer at Safaricom Ethiopia stated during a press briefing event held today July 7, 2022.

Safaricom’s statement comes after a week Shega reported that Safaricom Ethiopia, which is aggressively building its network infrastructure, would launch its services first in the Eastern region.

The telecom operator, who will be using the “07” prefix for mobile calls, instead of delaying its full commercial launch, is planning to start operations in areas where the infrastructure required is in place. As a result, the Eastern region, where the setting up of towers and core network is ahead of Addis Ababa, will experience the telecom services of Safaricom ahead of any region in Ethiopia.

“On why we are starting in Dire Dawa? We are building our own sites across the country. Cities will come online as they become ready & are connected to the national fiber. Addis is bigger & requires more sites. It will come online shortly, once the sites are integrated & optimized,” tweeted Anwar Soussa, CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia.

The telecom operator, which paid 850 million dollars for a 15-year license, has been moving ahead with its infrastructure development project, having contracted Huawei and Nokia. Nokia carries out 60pc of the project, including works in the capital. Meanwhile, the Eastern region is under the responsibility of Huawei.

Safaricom is not obligated to launch its services across the country but in defined economic zones. Last year August, the company disclosed that it placed an order to buy the first batch of three million SIM cards ahead of its commercial debut.

One of the features lined by Safaricom is video calls and multimedia messaging services (MMS). Safaricom Ethiopia has been assigned three-digit customer service numbers beginning with “5,” while its customer call center is 500.

Safaricom Ethiopia has also built a 100 million dollar data center in the capital. As it scales up operations, the company plans to install similar data centers in Adama and Dire Dawa. So far it has built 2 Data Centers.

Two months ago, it was reported that Ethio Telecom and Safaricom were set to strike a deal after months of back and forth over the financial aspects of sharing Ethio telecom’s towers. Safaricom also now confirms that it “recently signed Infrastructure sharing and interconnect agreements with Ethio Telecom, with implementation progressing well.”

Correction- This story is updated to reflect current developments and the official statement from Safaricom Ethiopia.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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