By Meron Tekleberhan
December 26, 2011 – A constant grievance heard in Addis Ababa has been the persistent problems experienced with internet connectivity. Customers of the sole internet provider Ethio Telecom often complain about various elements of internet service in the country including the slow speed of the connection, constant breaks in service, and ineffective customer service.
“Not only is the connection speed very slow, but Ethio Telecom does not provide the speed of connection we subscribe for. For example, if you subscribed for a connection with 256 kbps speed, it is very likely that the best speed your connection will get to will be half of that speed,” said Teferi a Computer Networks Specialist for a Non-Governmental organization in Addis Ababa.
The slow internet connection in the country is also exacerbated by the intermittent nature of the service where connection is cut unpredictably as much as several times in one working day, said Teferi.
A technical problem cited by experts in the field is that the routers used by Ethio Telecom are unable to handle high levels of traffic and are liable to get stuck in the middle of transmission, explains Teferi.
The same complaints were heard from various sectors at an event held by Ethio Telecom last month.
Representatives from international organizations, financial institutions and other service providers dependent on internet connection expressed their frustration at the low quality of services they received from the telecommunications provider in the presence of Chief Executive Officer of Ethio Telecom, Mr. Jean Michel Latute.
Sources that wished to remain anonymous within Ethio Telecom claim that the break in internet connection are usually due to damage received by fiber optic lines buried in the ground.
According to these sources fiber optics buried at a shallow depth in the ground are prone to suffer damage from various sources. Such breaks are reported at least several times every week they claim.
Ethio Telecom has reported in the past that damages suffered by fiber optic lines are primarily due to vandalism. The company is exerting considerable effort to ensure protection for fiber optics lines from law enforcement agents and the communities.
Ethio Telecom is also adversely affected by the use of cheap and low quality products in its physical setup, some sources explain. The low grade equipment fails to provide the service it was intended for and hence contributes to the general problems in internet connection.
The technical issues, however, are far outweighed by problems seen in human resources of Ethio Telecom says Ato Worku*, a long time employee at the telecommunications provider.
“A lot of employees were laid of when the former Ethiopian Telecommunications was reorganized as Ethio Telecom. There are many allegations of arbitrary practices when the new management took over and attempted to streamline the workforce,” he said.
The large scale lay offs and uncertain procedures related to that resulted in great loss of morale within the organization according to Worku. Human negligence and lack of initative is as much to blame for Ethio Telecom’s inability to provide quality service as is poor technical infrastructure, he explains. “Ethio Teelcom needs to start working on its human resources to ensure proper receiving and responding to customer complaints,” said Worku. The organization can then move onto training employees to better equip them to provide the kind of service that customers have a right to expect, he concluded.
However, the poor services and technical problems many complain about today were also present, if not worse, before the changes establishing Ethio Telecom took place.
Ethio Telecom has set its objective on offering international standard quality services. This, however, remains to be far from the reality on the ground as complaints against the services the organization provides are heard from all sectors.
Some ascribe to the opinion that the best way to modernize telecommunications would be to liberalize the sector and allow international competitors into the market. “This would encourage healthy competition and allow customers to choose from a range of services instead of being limited to one provider with a monopoly on the sector,” said Ato Worku.