Zain aims for South Sudan licence

Operator plans to expand 3G services and to invest $110m this year in the South.

Tags: MTN GroupUnited Arab EmiratesZain - SudanZain Group (www.zain.com)
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Zain aims for South Sudan licence Zain Sudan is to split its operations between North and South once South Sudan acquires an international dialing code. (Getty Images)
By  Nithyasree Trivikram Published  July 13, 2011

Zain Sudan, part of the Zain Group, is in talks with South Sudan for a licence to operate in the newly independent country, said Elfatih Erwa, managing director of Zain Sudan, as reported by Reuters.

Zain Sudan, one of the three mobile telecoms carriers licenced from Khartoum, will continue to operate in South Sudan until a new licence is agreed, Erwa said.Zain plans to expand its 3G services in the South, investing nearly $110 million in fibre and its core network this year, said the report. The telco had already invested $1.2 billion in the past three years in Sudan as a whole.

Erwa said: "Our network in the South is larger than the other operators combined. We are now ready to roll out a fibre network to the Red Sea. We already offer 3G services in the South, but internet access is currently via satellite and so capacity is limited. This will be improved dramatically when the fibre network is built," he added.

Erwa also ruled out asking North Sudan to refund some its estimated $281.2 million licence fee to offset the cost of the new South licence, according to Reuters.

Zain Sudan will split its operations between North and South once South Sudan acquires an international dialing code. He also said that with a population 8 million people in South Sudan, only 1 million people are estimated to have mobile phones. However, he said that this figure is likely to change within two years.

Zain Sudan holds a 57% mobile market share in Sudan with revenues worth $273 million as of this year's first quarter. These figures contribute almost a quarter of Zain Group's total. However, only about 6% of these revenues are estimated to come from South Sudan.

South African telco MTN and Sudatel's Sudani hold a mobile market share of 19% and 24% respectively.

Zain Sudan had 10.7 million subscribers as of March 31 this year, up 21% from previous year.

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