The current state of Sudan makes up the northern part of the country of the same name from which a new state named South Sudan seceded in 2011. Three quarters of the former Sudanese population live now in today’s Sudan, where mobile market penetration is far higher. The country has a relatively well-equipped telecommunications infrastructure by regional standards, including a national fibre optic backbone and international fibre connections.
The Internet penetration rate was 16,6% in 2016. The national infrastructure is relatively well-equipped by regional standards and it is being upgraded. Mobile communications started in 1996 and have expanded substantially with wide coverage of most major cities. There are microwave radio relays, cable, fiber optic, radiotelephone communications, tropospheric scatter, and a domestic satellite system with 14 earth stations in the country.
The national incumbent was privatised more than a decade ago, with major shares and management control now held by Etisalat of the UAE and by Qatar Telecom. Competition in the fixed-line market comes from Canar Telecom, which was also majority-owned by Etisalat until Etisalat sold its 92.3% interest to the Bank of Khartoum in mid-2016. The operator also opted for CDMA2000 technology to cost effectively roll out fixed services and, like Sudatel, offers wireless broadband services through this network, having upgraded to the EV-DO standard. The National Telcommunication Corporation (NTC) is the governmental body dedicated to provide an effective regulatory framework and adequate safeguards needed to ensure fair competition in Sudan.
Sudan has experienced protracted social conflict, civil war, and, in July 2011, the loss of three-quarters of its oil production due to the secession of South Sudan. The oil sector had driven much of Sudan’s GDP growth since 1999. For nearly a decade, the economy boomed on the back of rising oil production, high oil prices, and significant inflows of foreign direct investment. Since the economic shock of South Sudan’s secession, Sudan has struggled to stabilize its economy and make up for the loss of foreign exchange earnings. The interruption of oil production in South Sudan in 2012 for over a year and the consequent loss of oil transit fees further exacerbated the fragile state of Sudan’s economy. Ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Darfur, and the Blue Nile states, lack of basic infrastructure in large areas, and reliance by much of the population on subsistence agriculture, keep close to half of the population at or below the poverty line.
Sudan is also subject to comprehensive US sanctions. Sudan is attempting to develop non-oil sources of revenues, such as gold mining, while carrying out an austerity program to reduce expenditures. The world’s largest exporter of gum Arabic, Sudan produces 75-80% of the world’s total output. Agriculture continues to employ 80% of the work force. Sudan introduced a new currency, still called the Sudanese pound, following South Sudan’s secession, but the value of the currency has fallen since its introduction. Khartoum formally devalued the currency in June 2012, when it passed austerity measures that included gradually repealing fuel subsidies. Sudan also faces high inflation, which reached 47% on an annual basis in November 2012 but subsided to about 20% in 2016-17.
Sudatel is the main telecommunications and Internet service provider in the Sudan. The company is responsible for the construction and maintenance of Sudan’s telecom infrastructure. Sudatel is more than 60% owned by the Sudanese government; the remainder being owned by private interests. Its stock is listed on the Bahrain Stock Exchange.