By the end of 2008, there were 11.745mn mobile subscribers in Sudan at the end of 2008, giving a penetration rate of just over 30%. It is a country with exceptionally good growth potential, although new growth is inevitably going to put pressure on ARPUs. This is often the case as further expansion in the subscriber base means growing further into the bottom end of the market, capturing ever lower spending customers.
Sudan’s mobile operators are, however, whole heartedly pursuing this further growth, and with investments in expanding networks, a wave of expansion is taking place into rural regions, and the previously underserved, now semi-autonomous South. As well as being expanded into by Zain and more recently MTN, since January 2009, South Sudan has its own dedicated mobile operator. No results are yet available from Vivacell, but it is hoped to include them in our next update.
Q308 had seen a worrying slowdown in mobile growth in Sudan, but Q408 results have shown a fairly dramatic reversal of this trend, and we anticipate that 2009 will have an even higher growth rate than 2008.
Value-added services are not very well developed in Sudan. There is some 3G available, though the quality of service is apparently very limited, and in some cases restricted only to the postpaid subscriber base, which is minimal. MTN has hinted at some more investment in its 3G facilities in its end of year 2008 statement, but details are not available. There is some good potential for the operators to develop VAS, concentrating on the more developed areas and around Khartoum and elsewhere. This could help to counterbalance the move towards the lower end of the market in the growing subscriber base.
Fixed-line services remain something of a mystery, since there is no reliable information from either the operators or the regulator. Suffice to say that fixed-line services, even fixed wireless, are not very widespread. Internet service is even less common; broadband in particular had only an estimated 65,000 subscribers at the end of 2008. However, the country does claim 4mn internet users, so it would appear that the vast majority of people are making use of public facilities. This bodes well for future demand for internet services, but we do not expect broadband to become a widespread service for some years to come, with the cost remaining prohibitively high for most people.