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Sudan
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The third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the biggest countries on the continent, Sudan has a large, relatively well-equipped telecommunications system by regional standards, including a national fibre optic backbone and international fibre connections. With penetration rates in all market segments still relatively low, it is regarded as one of Africa's most lucrative telecommunications markets, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment per year.

Licenses & Regulations

Under a peace agreement, the oil-rich south of the country which has long been beyond the central government's control and deprived of development, is establishing its own independent telecommunications regime, creating new opportunities for service providers and equipment suppliers.

The industry is regulated by National Telecom Corporation (NTC).The Ministry Information and Communications is in charge of policies and legislations, whereas the licensed operators and service providers are in charge of the operation of licensed networks and of the provision of the services.

Fixed Lines

The national telco, Sudatel has been privatized for more than ten years, with major shares and management control now held by Etisalat of the UAE and Qatar Telecom. It is also listed on several regional stock exchanges. The company presided over the world's fastest growing fixed-line market until it started substituting traditional copper lines with CDMA2000 fixed-wireless access in 2005.

Competition in the fixed-line market comes from Canartel which, interestingly, is also majority-owned by Etisalat. It too opted for CDMA2000 technology to cost effectively roll out fixed services and, like Sudatel, is offering wireless broadband services through this network following an upgrade to the EV-DO standard. The company is lobbying for a license to offer mobile services as well but is meeting resistance from the other operators.

The number of main lines in use reached 356,100 in 2008.

Mobile

Sudatel exited the mobile market when it sold its GSM network to Celtel (now Zain) at a record price in 2006, following the arrival of competition the year before from Bashair Telecom. Sudatel then re-entered the mobile market independently with its CDMA network under the brand name Sudani. In October 2009 the company launched a GSM-based network overlay, keeping up with Zain and MTN in offering third generation services including HSDPA mobile broadband with up to 7.2Mb/s. Broadband pricing varies widely between the different operators, and a stark contrast exists between their respective average revenue per user levels, with the leading operator achieving twice as much as one of its competitors, one of the highest ARPU levels in region.

Vivacell is one of four GSM operators licensed to operate in Southern Sudan but is the first to be headquartered in Southern Sudan.

As of 2010, the number of mobile subscribers has reached 17 million with a penetration rate of 40%.

Mobile Operators

Average Revenue per User (ARPU)

Encouraging customers to move to postpaid accounts would be one way for operators in Sudan to try and buck the trend of declining revenues per user. Like many operators all over the world, networks in Sudan have suffered from a drop in average revenue per user (ARPU).

MTN's ARPU declined by US$5 at the start of last year due to what the operator described as lower minute usage by subscribers and lower effective tariffs, with all the players in the industry offering cheap on-net calls to ring fence their market shares.

Similarly, Zain's ARPU fell year-on-year, from $19 during the third quarter of 2007 to $16 during the same period in 2008 and to US$13 in 2009.

Despite the drop, it still remains an important country for Zain's overall operation, accounting for 8% of its total subscriber base, behind only Nigeria and Iraq in terms of customers. It also accounts for 12% of Zain's total revenues.

MTN has found Sudan a particularly difficult market to operate in, with one episode in particular taking a huge chunk of subscribers away from its base.

In last year's third quarter results it revealed that it had 2.2 million subscribers, but that figure was drastically affected by a regulatory requirement that ordered networks to disconnect prepaid subscribers if they had no personal information about the customer on record. This resulted in the loss of 1.1 million MTN subscribers during the beginning of the second quarter of 2008.

Despite the decreasing ARPU levels, Sudanese mobile operators still have one of the highest ARPU rates in the region.

Internet

No internet services were available before 1996.The country had 4,200,000 internet subscribers in 2009, with 10.2% penetration rate. There were 48 internet hosts in 2009 and the broadband internet subscribers were 44,600. There are 21 Internet Service Providers.

Key figure

  • Number of main lines in use: 356,100 (2008)
  • Number of mobile subscribers: 17,280,000 (2010)
  • Number of internet users: 4,200,000 (2009)
  • Number of broadband internet subscribers: 44,600 (2009)
  • Number of Internet hosts: 48(2009)
  • Number of ISPs: 21 licensed ISPs
  • Internet penetration rate: 10.2% (2009)
  • Mobile penetration rate: 40% (2010)

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