Tariku Tezera, 22, was sitting at Gojam Berenda in search of people wanting to install satellite dishes. Gojam Berenda is where many satellite dish shops are found in Addis Abeba. He started the job five years ago as an assistant of other satellite TV installers. When Fortune met him, he had already installed two satellite dishes – his daily average work load.
In the year 2016, five private TV channels started broadcasting to Ethiopian audiences.
“Despite the increase in the number channels, the business is as usual for me,” Tariku told Fortune. “The price remains constant, because new people have joined the business rapidly and the coming of Nile Sat makes it easier to search and install TV stations – even the children and the students are very fast at maintaining and searching based on the installation manual.”
He went on to further describe the sector.
“The price range to maintain one satellite dish is from 150-200 Br and there is no need to have taken any kind of training or education in satellite dish installation,” Tariku said, underscoring that a satellite dish installer must know current digital satellite TV systems, price and equipment.
For Tariku, experience is more important than schooling when it comes to working as a cable guy. Unlike Tariku, however, Asmamaw Kebede, a fellow cable guy, argues that the coming of new Ethiopian channels has brought with it new job opportunities with the installation of satellite TV stations.
The cable guy determines where the satellite dish should be placed and connects the TV set with the receiver to receive signals to the subscriber.
“Satellite dish installation job is very interesting because it pays well and does not consume much time,” Asmamaw said. “We have to provide proper connection with the receiver box and the receiver box translates the satellite signal.”
“A satellite dish is just a special kind of antenna designed to focus on a specific broadcast source,” according to Asmamaw. “When the signal is captured by the satellite, it will reach the subscriber through their TV sets.”
Six years ago, the only privately owned satellite television was the Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS), which broadcasts its programmes from the United States. It started televising different programmes through correspondents in Ethiopia. EBS obtained the frequency for transmitting from Nile Sat. Among the new channels that started broadcasting last year is Kana. Kana television airs translated movies from the Middle East and other countries.
Currently in Ethiopia, there are eight analogue terrestrial and ten satellite channels. Ethiopia’s annual import of satellite dishes and appliances is roughly around 700,000, costing close to eight million birr.
Asmamaw started satellite dish installation seven years ago.
“Satellite dish installation price ranges from 200-300 Br for Nile Sat and 400 Br for football channels, but sometimes it depends on my customers,” Asmamaw said. “I have many contacts and sometimes I get as many as five calls a day for installation work.”
The price of dishes at Merkato varies from 1,100-3,000 Br.
“The future is bright for satellite dish installers, because privately owned satellite TV channels have rekindled people’s interest in satellite TV once more,” according to Asmamaw.
In addition to the new TV stations popular with TV watchers, the winding down of summer has boosted the demand for cable guys in town.
“Satellite dish installation is highly demanded in the summer season,” Asmamaw states, owing to the fact that summer season for most students is a yearly break from school and they have a lot of time to watch TV.
Comparatively speaking, the current price of dish installation and maintenance has increased rapidly. Abreham Tsegaye, a 30-year old-teacher who lives in Addis Abeba, attests to the rise in what cable guys are charging for their services.
“The satellite dish installation price increased when the new satellite TV channels started with new styles and programmes,” Abreham said. “Kana is an amazing channel for me and I am interested to watch the series of dramas aired on the station.”
The price of satellite dish is higher than last year, according Abreham’s judgement.
“I had installed my satellite dish before two years and it cost 100 Br for the installation, but now it costs up to 400 Br,” Abreham states.
Gurumie Beyene, a cable guy with five years’ experience, also agrees with the price hike.
“Comparatively speaking, the price of satellite dish installation is 50 Br higher than last year’s price,” Gurumie said. “Currently, the demand for satellite dish installation has increased because of the new satellite TV channels and with people’s demand to access football channels.”
Degefu Dendir owns a small cafe in Addis Abeba, around Addisu Gebeya. There is a flat 32-inch TV screen in the small cafe. Most of the time, customers ask the waitress if they can watch one of the recently launched satellite TV stations.
“Many customers have bought satellite dishes to watch the translated series dramas and other shows on satellite TV,” Abreham added.
“Some technical and vocational schools in the capital have been giving courses on satellite dish installation,” Gurumie told Fortune.
Gurumie, however, did not take any courses on satellite dish installation and maintenance. He gained the experience from his friends. While experience and speed of executing the job is important, the “price of satellite dish maintenance depends on the agreement of the customers and the installers,” Gurumie added.
Mebrahtu Yohanes, who lives around Jomo, at the southern end of the city, studied Information Technology at Meqelle University and graduated in 2013. He wants to get a short training course in satellite dish installation and maintenance, so he can join the business.
“I want to join the business because I think the future is bright for satellite TV channels and for the dish installation business,” Mebrahtu said. “I see a lack of professionals in the dish installation business in Ethiopia and I want to be a professional installer and entrepreneur in the field.”
Satellite dish installation does not have professional requirements and quality assurance. Many satellite dish installers post a small advertising paper inside the minibus taxis in Addis Abeba or on the walls of condominiums and electric poles.
“Anyone interested in working as a cable guy does not need to have huge capital to join the satellite dish installation and maintenance business,” says Gurumie. “Business people who have experience in satellite dish installation can join easily.”
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