South Sudan - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses
South Sudan's mobile infrastructure struggles with closure of VivaCell
Following a referendum, oil-rich South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 and became an independent nation. Having been deprived of investment for decades, it inherited one of the least developed telecommunications and internet markets in the world, while other infrastructure is also lamentably poor. Although this potentially can create investment opportunities for infrastructure and service providers, such developments largely depend on a negotiated end to the protracted civil war which erupted in December 2013, and which has caused considerable mayhem and bloodshed, particularly in the oil-producing areas. With the civic struggle exacerbated by large-scale famine, investors in all economic sectors have been discouraged.
There was once investment activity among mobile network operators who sought to expand their networks in some areas of the country, but by late 2016 both Zain South Sudan and MTN South Sudan had cut back their workforces in a bid to save on operating costs, while their falling subscriber bases have strained revenue. Zain South Sudan in particular recorded considerable financial losses in 2015 and 2016. Operators in the telecom sector, as in other markets, are placing themselves in survival mode and are hoping for a political settlement and a return to some degree of social stability. MTN reported a 14% fall in the number of mobile subscribers in 2017, with a consequent severe decline in revenue. Both Zain and MTN saw their subscriber bases increase in 2018 as they absorbed customers which had migrated from VivaCell after that company was closed down for failing to pay back taxes.
At only around 12% penetration, the lowest in Africa, South Sudan's mobile market potentially has many years of strong growth ahead of it, though this is premised on a resolution to the political crisis and a recovery of the country's economy. The virtually untapped internet and broadband market also depends to a large extent on the country gaining access to international fibre optic cables and on a national backbone network being in place. Sophisticated infrastructure solutions are needed to reach the 80% of the population that live outside of the main urban centres. With a negligible rate of bank account ownership, mobile payment and banking solutions also have a strong potential once a reliable mobile infrastructure is built.
The limits to growth are currently defined by widespread poverty and a low literacy rate, but the government recognises the positive feedback loop on development that access to information and communication technologies (ICT) can have and is providing a range of investment incentives. The international community has provided billions of dollars in aid to strengthen governance and institutions in the young nation.
Government raises telecom tax from 10% to 15%;
Telecom regulator suspends VivaCell's mobile telephony services;
SES signs multi-year agreement with MADA Communications International to provide satellite internet services;
RCS 2016 doubles internet capacity with O3b Networks;
Zain South Sudan adjusts reporting for a hyper-inflationary economy;
South Sudan joins the One Network Area scheme;
Government revisits plan to build 1,600km fibre network to connect to submarine cables via Uganda and Tanzania;
Report update includes operator data to Q2 2018, ITU data for 2017, recent market developments.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Zain, VivaCell (Network of the World; NOW); MTN; Gemtel Green Network (G Telecom; LAP Green); Sudatel; Sudani; Canar Telecom (Canartel, Etisalat); fastNet; RCS Communication; iBurst; Thuraya; Yahsat; O3b Networks; Fujairah Media Group (FMG); Equity Bank.