Ethiopian mobile telephony subscribers will enjoy the benefits of texting again, as the SMS service is back in operation after over a 2-year ban.
Text messages may be a key generator of revenue for operators, with profit margins soaring way over those for calls. But few would have thought that SMS is an essential part of the freedom of speech. In Ethiopia they seem to have learnt it the hard way.
The only telecom in Ethiopia disabled the texting service for all subscribers back in 2005. An opposition party running in the 2005 elections was using SMS for campaigning and they must have been doing it right, as the government resorted to enforcing severe measures to limit the opposition reach. Parts of the press were closed down, web access was limited and SMS was shut down on June 10, 2005.
The ban held for over two years, but last month the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation restored the service in celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium. The country follows a unique traditional calendar, which is seven years late than the Western one.
Meanwhile, Nokia marked the celebrations by introducing a few mobile phones, which support Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia. The phones launched are Nokia 1200, 1208, 1650, 2630 and 2760, all of which have features and applications specifically designed for markets such as Ethiopia.