Chinese equipment provider ZTE has been awarded a USD400 million contract by monopoly operator Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) to expand wireless network infrastructure across the east African country, according to local press reports quoted by Cellular News. The agreement will last between four and five years and, according to reports, around 900,000 wireless telephone lines will be deployed in rural towns in the coming two years. Under the deal, it is anticipated that mobile network coverage will be increased to 64% of the population, with wireless telephony services reaching 90%. ETC, which operates both CDMA and GSM networks, previously said that it intended to increase GSM population coverage to 85% by 2010. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Ethiopia is the largest country in Africa that still operates a monopoly in the wireless sector, and there is huge potential demand for services; ETC has over two million mobile users, but this is a tiny percentage of the 79 million people living there. In July it was announced ZTE had agreed to build a national next-generation network for ETC covering 14 cities including the capital, Addis Ababa. Later that month ETC announced that the first phase of its fixed-wireless and mobile CDMA2000 network had been completed in the Addis Ababa region, following a rollout by ZTE.