Reuters reports that Sudan’s second fixed line operator Canartel has said it is confident of securing a mobile operating licence by the end of the year, and was looking to expand its fixed line operations into Darfur and southern Sudan. The mobile licence will cost ‘in the hundreds of millions [of dollars],’ according to Canartel’s chief corporate affairs officer Mohammed Bouhelal. ‘It [the decision] is now at a very high level. It should be announced by Etisalat soon,’ Bouhelal said. Canartel, 82%-owned by Emirati giant Etisalat, entered the market in 2006 as the first direct competition to incumbent Sudatel, in which the Sudanese government retains a 26% holding.
Canartel also wishes to expand its existing fixed-line operations, with the firm looking to invest at least USD50 million creating infrastructure and establishing a presence in the Darfur region of western Sudan and the semi-autonomous south. ‘By the end of the year, we hope to be in El Fasher and Nyala, as well as El Geneina and Zalingei,’ Bouhelal said, noting that peacekeepers there have a need for better communication. The four towns are in Darfur, where the United Nations and African Union have deployed troops in an attempt to keep peace between the government and Darfuri rebels. Bouhelal went on, ‘We are in the south, in Rumbek, and will be moving to Waw and then Juba before the end of the year…There is good business in the south.’ He noted the natural resources of the area, including oil, and an expected influx of USD2.5 billion in aid. He also said he was confident that Sudan’s political troubles would not hinder the firm’s expansion west and south, and that in fact telecoms could help to promote harmony. ‘First of all people should come to a table to discuss things, but communications will also help people to do business together and create mutual interest,’ he added.