The Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) has requested that telecoms companies operating in the region suspend work there until the administration publishes new regulations for the sector, Hisham Mustafa Allam, COO of Zain Sudan was quoted in a Reuters report.
Following a vote to secede earlier this year, south Sudan is expected to become Africa's newest nation on July 2011.
Allam said that though he expected the company's mobile license to be valid in south Sudan after this July, he could not be "100% sure" that would be the case. "There's potential for south Sudan, but there are big challenges,' he said in the report. "One of the problems we have right now is that it costs lots of money to build sites and do a rollout (of fibre) in the south." He stated that deployment of a broadband network in the region is particularly expensive because the landlocked country has to rely on north Sudan or Kenya for access to submarine cables.
It is stated that Zain has invested $300 million, or about 20% of total capital expenditure in Sudan over the past five years in the south, and has rolled out around 150 base stations in the region.
Allam was quoted saying that the decision for Zain to roll out in south Sudan was purely a strategic one and 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.
Allam also stated that there is still opportunity for business in south Sudan when things start to stabilise and infrastructure is there. Zain Sudan, which has about 10.5 million subscribers, operates along with MTN of South Africa and Sudan's own Sudani brand. With a population of 40 million, Sudan has a mobile market reach of 40%. The south Sudan with a population of about 8 million has also given mobile licences to two other operators.