I'm considering a long business trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. One risk is that Ethiopia is one of those countries where the government periodically shuts down internet access, which could cause me some problems if it happened at a bad time while I was there, so I'm trying to plan ahead.

It's happened twice recently that I'm aware of: as I understand it, in October 2016 for a few weeks mobile internet, and I think also internet cafes were shut down and cable internet was slow/restricted during political protests; and for one week in May 2017 both mobile and cable internet were completely switched off (basically, all internet through the state monopoly EthioTelecom), allegedly to prevent students from sharing leaked exam papers before sitting their exams.

Satellite internet like VSAT and BGAN, however, are as far as I know legal in Ethiopia and as I understand it weren't blocked (if it would even be possible to do so) or banned. However, personal satellite internet access for an individual is prohibitively expensive: setting up VSAT would require a satellite dish set up by a technician, whereas BGAN portable receivers start at around $1,000 USD and cost hundreds of dollars for tens of megabytes.

It seems like there are a good number of businesses in Ethiopia that do use VSAT for internet access, and also apparently there have been some exemptions, but I can't find any specifics:

There were exceptions to the blackout as diplomatic and international institutions, banks and top hospitality outfits still had access amidst the blackout.

Is there anything like a hotel, business centre, venue, or similar in Addis Ababa where I could go and pay for internet access that is exempted or from some source like VSAT that isn't turned off during these government shutdowns?

I've heard that the UN have some backup connection (presumably VSAT?) which they share with certain diplomatic and humanitarian partners during these shutdowns for emergency uses, but I doubt I'd be able to blag my way onto that...

I've seen Where can I find a decent place to do remote work in Addis Ababa? and have contacted the working space (IceAddis) suggested in the answer.

Unfortunately they confirmed that they are also affected. Apparently only a handful of organisations such as Ethiopia Airlines and the UN have licences to use VSAT.

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    If you're going on a business trip, shouldn't the company receiving you take care of that?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:02
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    Not as simple as that. Partly because: during the last shutdowns, they qualified to use the UN's connection; I'd be able to use that for things related to work with them, but I'd also want internet access for other clients and projects unrelated to this organisation, which I wouldn't be able to justify as requiring emergency humanitarian or diplomatic access to the UN's bandwidth. Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 22:07

1 Answer 1


This is an anecdotal answer but, because of what I state in my last paragraph, I believe my answer holds for more than just one occasion.

I have been living in Addis Ababa since February, and I was affected by the week-long internet shutdown in May.

During that period, I was able to pay for internet at the Hilton and Intercontinental hotels in the city centre. The speed was decent at both hotels (for being Ethiopia, that is1), with the internet at Hilton a tad more reliable. Both of these are owned and operated (at least partially) by the Ethiopian government, which is likely to be the reason why they were able to circumvent the shutdown and had internet access.

1. You seem to be well-informed, but be aware that even when things are good, internet is usually quite slow in Ethiopia.

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    Perfect! Well not perfect but you know what I mean :-) How much did it cost to use internet at the Hilton? Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 15:07
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    @user568458 I believe it was around 200 ETB (roughly 8.5 USD) for 3-4 hours, but I can't give a better answer than that, sorry.
    – HenricF
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 15:12

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