Up and raring to go

Sudatel is competing for a leading position in the digital industry supported by a strategy with great focus on digital excellence and revenue diversification, says Eng. Tarig Hamza Zainelabdin, CEO of Sudatel.
Sudatel, Eng. Tarig Hamza Zainelabdin, Broadband, ICT, Digital services, Telecom operators, OTT, Digital economy
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CommsMEA: What are the primary sources of revenue for Sudatel?

Sudatel revenues are above half a billion dollars, more than 90% of this coming from main markets. Sudatel’s main markets are Sudan, Senegal and Mauritania. Mobile network operations in Sudan still generate more than 50% of the total group revenues. Besides that Sudatel generates revenues from its submarine investments in East and West Africa which is expected to grow significantly in the coming two years.

CommsMEA: What are the main challenges in Sudan market according to you and how do you plan to counter the same?

Sudatel is very optimistic after US sanctions were lifted from Sudan, however currently there are challenges in Sudan like the economic situation as well as currency devaluation. On the positive side, Sudan as a market is still at the growth phase in broadband and ICT services which indicate a promising growth in the coming two years. Sudani (Sudan operations) increased broadband by 60% during 2017 alone.

CommsMEA: Which are the areas wherein Sudatel is investing maximally in and why?

The future is all about broadband and digital services, therefore our investment is aiming to build richer connectivity by focusing on building and strengthening our network and investing in future technologies.

CommsMEA: How do you view the competitive landscape in Sudan and how’s Sudatel positioned in there?

Telecommunications industry in Sudan is one of the most advanced in the region. Sudatel being the main engine for this industry has evolved from the first telecommunication corporation in Sudan to aspiring to be the most preferred ICT provider.

Sudatel faces fierce competition from two giants in the mobile telecommunication namely Zain and MTN and has a single competitor on the fixed services which is Canar.

Despite the huge burden of sanctions on Sudan and on Sudatel in particular along with the economical struggles, the company managed to clinch to a fair market share on the mobile market at 27% and has divided the fixed market equally with Canar.

Owning the biggest fibre backbone network in the country , supported by three international submarine cables crowns Sudatel as the one and only international gateway hub which provides domestic and international connectivity with a portfolio of customers range from small household to multinational enterprises.

Digitalisation is slowly growing in Sudan compared to similar markets however the opportunity is enormous. Sudatel is competing for a leading position in the digital industry supported by a strategy with great focus on digital excellence and revenue diversification.

CommsMEA: Digital and IT revolution represents a massive change in telecommunication industry and the difference between IT and telecom technologies is becoming more and more invisible, but what does this mean to Sudatel?

Sudatel has identified four key strategies to address the digital revolution that will help Sudatel to drive revenues and profits in the coming years.

Customer experience and analytics:  Improving the customer experience is a key goal for Sudatel telecom group. Customers use different channels of communication to purchase, make the payment, inquire or get the help from the provider -what we call as the ‘customer journey’.

Sudatel has launched a group driven initiative to develop its customer journey blueprint and digitise the interaction with the customers using the latest technologies such like AI, machine learning and big data.

The programme aims to migrate 70% of the customer interactions within Sudatel into full-fledged automation.

Digital economy: OTT players take the advantage of our infrastructure to offer the digital economy services. Sudatel is now partnering with several OTT players to increase its share in the digital economy and some examples of these projects are pay TV, mobile financial services, e-government services, direct billing and IoT.

Technological efficiency: IT solutions started to add value to telecom since the introduction of the intelligent network (IN) 20 years ago. In Sudatel we believe that IT solutions are rushing in and soon will make our networks even more intelligent. Sudatel is researching the involvement of the software in its network through SDN and NFV technologies which are expected to enhance network optimisation process and reduce Sudatel’s operational costs.

Digital culture: Sudatel believes that the digital transformation doesn’t just concern technology rather it’s a cultural and structural transformation in the organisation and the society. Sudatel incubator is a key initiative to drive the digital cultural transformation which saw the Senegal operation launching its innovation hub that will be followed by Sudan and Mauritania very soon.

CommsMEA: Would you like to highlight any recent partnerships?

Sudatel recently engaged with Liquid Telecom on the area of high speed FTTH. The partnership scope is beyond that and will increase the broadband capacity and speeds available to homes and businesses in Sudan, which are currently reliant on wireless networks to access the internet.

Leveraging Liquid Telecom’s extensive experience in deploying high-speed networks, Sudatel will build FTTH networks in Sudan designed to the highest network standards and using the latest technologies.

With sanctions being lifted opening up the opportunities of partnership with international and regional players, Sudatel has ongoing discussions that will see the light soon.

CommsMEA: What is the target Sudatel has set for itself for 2018 in terms of revenues and profitability?

Sudatel has ambitious plans for 2018; we are aiming to increase both revenues and profitability by more than 10%.

CommsMEA: Mobile money has been said to be a great way to bring in financial inclusion and bridge digital divide. Has Sudatel made advances in that space?

In Sudan, mobile money service has been introduced officially in 2016 with Sudatel being the first provider followed by Bank of Khartoum and MTN Sudan.

The model adopted in Sudan is the centralised model where all providers use the platform run by Central Bank of Sudan. This platform is integrated with other payment systems in the country enabling access to banks' systems and allows customers of all services to transfer to each other hence laying the foundation for interoperability, yet it imposes many challenges.

In Sudatel, we provide the service under brand name Gorooshi meaning my money in Sudanese. Gorooshi’s subscriber’s number has exceeded 1m.

Offered services range from money transfers, utilities payments and currently humanitarian aid disbursements and government fees payment.

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