Thursday, 1 April 2021

South Sudan is getting 3G Upgrades and 4G

Following the referendum in 2011, oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Having been deprived of investment for decades, it inherited one of the least developed telecommunications and internet markets in the world, while other infrastructure is also lacking. Although this potentially can create investment opportunities for infrastructure and service providers, such developments largely depend on a negotiated end to the protracted civil war which erupted in December 2013, and which has caused considerable mayhem and bloodshed, particularly in the oil-producing areas. With the civic struggle exacerbated by large-scale famine, investors in all economic sectors have been discouraged.

There was once investment activity among mobile network operators who sought to expand their networks in some areas of the country, but by late 2016 both Zain South Sudan and MTN South Sudan had cut back their workforces in a bid to save on operating costs, while their falling subscriber bases have strained revenue. Zain South Sudan in particular recorded considerable financial losses in 2015 and 2016. Operators in the telecom sector, as in other markets, have placed themselves in survival mode and are hoping for a political settlement and a return to some degree of social stability. Although MTN and Zain reported a significant fall in the number of mobile subscribers in 2017, with a consequent severe decline in revenue, both saw subscriber bases increase in 2018 as they absorbed customers which had migrated from VivaCell after that company was closed down for failing to pay back taxes.

South Sudan has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in Africa. Growth in the sector in coming years is premised on a resolution to the political crisis and a recovery of the country’s economy. The virtually untapped internet and broadband market also depends to a large extent on the country gaining access to international fibre optic cables and on a national backbone network being 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 also have a strong potential once a reliable mobile infrastructure is built.

Currently there are only two mobile operators in South Sudan. They are South African giant MTN and Kuwait-based Zain. The government will provide security to all mobile operators to ensure improved internet service in the country. 


MTN has the largest number of subscribers in South Sudan.  They have invested US$30-million (R430-million) in revitalising and expanding operations since the end of the five-year civil war, reviving transmission sites, upgrading to 3G and adding new coverage.


Zain has also made huge investments and developed  the telecommunications infrastructure of South Sudan.  

They have over 300 third generation (3G) voice and data enabled network sites. The technology being deployed nationwide can easily be upgraded to super-fast 4G LTE.  Zain’s local unit in South Sudan has launched a commercial 4G offering in the capital city Juba. 

According to TeleGeography, as of end-2020 Zain South Sudan had 1.05 million subscribers, putting it in second place behind its sole competitor MTN South Sudan, which has 1.70 million customers. 

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