South Sudan - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses
Political unrest leads to sharp fall in mobile subscriber numbers
Following a referendum, oil-rich South Sudan seceded from Sudan and became the world's youngest independent nation in 2011. Having been deprived of development for decades, it has one of the least developed telecommunications and internet markets in the world. Although this potentially can create investment opportunities for infrastructure and service providers, such developments largely depend on a negotiate end to the civil war which erupted in December 2013, and which has caused considerable mayhem and bloodshed, particularly in the oil-producing areas. While the struggle continues into 2014, and many international workers have sought sanctuary in UN bases across the country, investors in all economic sectors have been discouraged though there is activity among existing mobile network operators seeking to expand their networks in some areas of the country.
At only around 20% penetration, one of the lowest in Africa, South Sudan's mobile market has many years of strong growth ahead of it. The virtually untapped internet and broadband market will kick off once the country gains access to international fibre optic cables and a national backbone network is put 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 are set to dominate the country's financial services sector as well.
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 $4 billion in aid to strengthen governance and institutions in the young nation.
Estimated market penetration rates in South Sudan's telecoms sector 2015 (e) Market | Penetration rate Mobile | 27% Fixed | 0% Internet (Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
South Sudan joins the One Network Area scheme, removing international roaming charges for calls between Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan; Government revisits plan to build 1,600km fibre network to connect to submarine cables via Uganda and Tanzania; Kenyan telecom regulator helping South Sudan develop ICT regulation; Kenya and South Sudan begin work on new World Bank-funded terrestrial fibre cable; Government forms national committee to speed up designing and building the national backbone, considers setting up the National Communications Authority (NCA) to oversee the telecoms sector; New international fibre connections expected later in 2015; Mobile banking solutions set to revolutionise the largely cash-based economy; Investment incentives in the ICT sector.
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.