United Arab Emirates incumbent telco Etisalat is considering the purchase of a mobile licence in Sudan to complement its existing fixed line operations there, its chairman has said. ‘There is initial thought to consider the extending of our licence in Sudan to include mobile,’ Mohammad Hassan Omran told regional newspaper Gulf News on Sunday. Etisalat is the largest shareholder in Canar Telecom (Canartel), which launched Sudan’s second fixed line network in January 2006. The operator currently provides voice, data and broadband internet based on next-generation network (NGN) and CDMA technologies. Etisalat has the option of extending its licence to cover mobile services without the requirement to participate in an open bidding process, said Omran. The operator’s current NGN in Sudan leases capacity to other telecom operators such as Zain (formerly MTC Group) and MTN.
Sudan has a population of 41 million, and is said to represent one of the last untapped telecom markets in the Arab world. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Canartel ended 2006 with 150,000 total lines in service. Etisalat owns a controlling 37% stake in Canartel. The main rival in the Sudanese market is incumbent Sudan Telecom (Sudatel), in which Etisalat also holds a share, albeit just 4.6%. Sudatel served around 400,000 fixed line customers at the end of last year.