There is one, government run mobile phone operator in Ethiopia, called ETC. There is reasonable mobile phone connectivity in all the main towns and cities, and along the main roads.
If you are visiting from the UK, the position seems to be that:
- Contract (pay monthly) mobile phones on UK Vodafone, O2 and T-Mobile networks seem to roam OK here. The costs are considerable, though – about £1.50 a minute to receive a call.
- Orange does not have a roaming agreement: so your Orange phone will not work
- Pay-As-You-Talk SIM cards from the UK do not work at all here.
- Text messaging works in both directions. It costs about 35p to send a text message to the UK.
You can buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card for ETC which will probably work in your phone (if your phone is not locked to a UK network). (If you are staying with us, we will lend you one.) The easiest place to get one is in the lobby of the Hilton; but you can also get on in an ETC office or in several shops around town. You will need to have your passport (they will retain a copy of the photograph page). Another good shop for SIM cards is on the Bole Road, next to Shoa Bakery near the New York Supermarket. The SIM will cost about ETB 300 ($30). You can buy top-up cards all over town.
If you are visiting from the US, you’ll need an unlocked GSM phone. The (more common) CDMA phones won’t work, as far as I know.
There are currently no data roaming agreements with Ethiopia, so your Blackberry may work as a phone and for text messaging but you won’t get your email on it. But you can get round this by buying a local pay as you go SIM card.
If you want mobile internet, read this.