Sudan is the third largest African country and its has tremendous potential in so many sectors. However due to the effects of having lost much of its oil reserves to South Sudan which seceded in 2011, some domestic volatility and social unrest; the economy has performed poorly in recent years. As a consequence the telecoms market has shrunk: The number of mobile phone subscribers in the Sudan dropped to 27.9 million in 2016 from 28.3 million in 2015 and the number of internet users declined to 9.9 million subscribers from 11.4 million. There were 9 million smartphone users as of Q1 2017.
However the estimated market penetration rates in the Sudanese telecom sector are still encouraging: 77% for the mobile market, 30% for the internet market, and 1.1% for the landline market. Mobile internet is also thriving. The number of internet cafes in the state of Khartoum has decreased noticeably since the early 2000s as mobile internet has become cheaper and more accessible to the public.
Sudan might have been one of the last African countries to introduce mobile telephony, in 1997, but the growth rate since entering the market has been one of the fastest in Africa. As the mobile sector has expanded even further since, operators have rolled out highly advanced networks. Sudan now has one of the most well equipped telecommunications infrastructures in the region, including a national fiber-optic backbone and international fiber-optic connections.
Sudatel is the biggest telecommunications and internet service provider in Sudan. Established in 1994 as a public company, the government owns just over 20% while private companies own the remainder. Its shares have been traded on several Middle Eastern stock markets. Sudatel operates landlines as well as GSM mobile,and Sudani is the mobile arm of Sudatel Group.
It is a mobile and broadband service provider for consumers and businesses in Sudan, and was the first telecom company in the country to deploy a 3.75G service — called SudaniOne.
Sudatel ended 2016 with a mobile subscriber base of twelve million. Commenting on the results, Tarig Hamza Zain Alabdain said: ‘Sudatel began to reap the fruits of its investments in infrastructure, especially the broadband fibre-optic networks across Sudan which will go a long way in supporting Sudatel’s effort in reinforcing the data and information technology revolution through current and expected broadband connections until 2020.’
Sudatel's 2020 Strategy focuses on transforming from a traditional telecom operator to becoming an ICT provider.
Another key player is Zain Sudan, formerly Mobitel Sudan, it is now the second biggest mobile telephone network operator by subscribers in the Sudan with more than 11 million customers. 2G coverage is found in populated areas and 3G in towns.The company is introducing 4G in Sudan throughout 2016, and is one of the biggest telecommunications operators across the Middle East and North Africa.
Zain was awarded a 4G/LTE license by local regulator NTC in February 2016. Later that year it has become the first operator to launch LTE services. 4G network coverage can be found across the capital Khartoum, Medani, Port Sudan and El Obeid to reach around 20% of the population. Almost 300 4G sites have already been switched on, spreading to 21 towns and cities by 2017.
MTN Sudan is a subsidiary of the South African MTN Group, a provider of communication services and it is operational in Africa and the Middle East. MTN Sudan offers mobile phone and data services to the Sudanese market and covers 99% of populated areas in Sudan.
MTN Sudan based in South Africa is the smallest provider of the trio with more than 3 million customers.