South Sudan Government Suspends Work of Telecom Companies
The government of South Sudan (GoSS) notified telecom companies that it will temporarily suspend their work while they issue new regulations governing their operations in the region that is set to become an independent country next July.
Hesham Mustafa Allam, COO for Zain, largest mobile phone operator in Sudan, told Reuters that this decision could force them to delay some work on cell towers and laying of fibre-optics. Though he expected the company's mobile license to be valid in South Sudan after July, Allam said he could not be "100 percent sure" that would be the case either.
The South Sudan government last week accused the North of tapping the phones of its senior officials through telecom companies and produced documents to prove it. However, the Khartoum-based government denied the charge.
Zain launched its network in South Sudan five years ago and in 2008 launched a major expansion initiative that saw growth in towers from a handful to around 150 with a total cost of $300 million. This was made despite logistical challenges and the lack of information on the profitability of the market in a region that is just emerging from a two-decades civil war.
The company's move south is key after losing its lion's share of Sudan's market in 2007 to fierce competition in the rest of the country from the part-government owned operator Sudani.
"For Zain, the decision to rollout in South Sudan was purely a strategic decision; it was not a business decision, because at that time we had Zain Uganda and Zain Kenya and so to have one network you couldn't have it without South Sudan," he said.
"[Having] said this, we believe there is opportunity in South Sudan. We will not say South Sudan is not good for business. There's still opportunity for business in South Sudan when things start to stabilize and infrastructure is there."