With its potential largely untapped, the oil-rich nation of Sudan has plenty of room to grow, according to Research & Markets.
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.
The national telco, Sudatel has been privatised 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 licence to offer mobile services as well but is meeting resistance from the other operators.
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. At the end of 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 is still high and 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 the region.
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.