20-Year Telecom Triumph
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Sudatel Group (STG) has now thrived in Sudan for more than 20 years as the only telecom Company to offer end-to-end portfolios serving both consumer and business segments, and is now looking to further leverage this reputation and market standing to bring even further innovation not just to its own country of origin, but wider into Africa also.
Since 1993, the Company has fulfilled consumer demand by adapting continuously to the very latest market requirements and to the future industry trends emanating their way from other international markets. This not only stands true for its core voice services, but across data, digital, cloud and fibre solutions with Sudatel’s turnkey offering central to its ongoing success.
“Since 2006, STG has made steady investments into West Africa, finding great synergies across our four operations outside of Sudan; Guinea Conakry, Mauritania, Senegal and Ghana,” explains the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Eng. Tariq Hamzah Zein Elabdein. “We have a combination of CDMA and GSM networks and have adopted a transformational strategy moving from a traditional mobile telecom operator towards an integrated ICT services and solutions enabler across all markets; serving businesses, consumer segments and other operators.”
Strategically focused on enhancing performance through the maximisation of operational efficiency, it is the 7.5 million customers in Sudan alone who benefit most from STG’s commitment to development, leading the Company towards a unique position through its superior international connectivity, large national backbone network, a state-of-the-art Tier 4 data centre, and a host of frequencies including 800 MHz digital dividend bands.
In 2015, this strong platform has culminated in a series of introductions and unveilings to the Sudanese market, once again improving the infrastructure in the country and the levels of accessibility that the population now has to previously unavailable products and services.
From a mobile perspective, STG is launching the Youth Network as a sub-brand to target university students with a tailored offering suited to their needs, while the Company has also entered the fast moving consumer goods market by launching micro recharge cards as an alternative to cash transactions.
“From a fixed lines perspective, we have revamped our offerings to more segmented propositions for residential and corporates through voice and data bundles, besides offering value-added services and integrated solutions on top of existing services,” Elabdein says. “We are also increasing our footprint in fibre connectivity to cover all of Sudan and to connect to neighbouring countries.”
Equally significant has been STG’s approach to data optimisation as one of the fastest growing services called for in the region. The Company has subsequently focused on introducing much higher speed connectivity, with special propositions unveiled in schools and for SMEs to enhance its enrichment of the local communities.
Bridging its international network through such projects has been pivotal and has been enforced by its ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) submarine cable which connects seven countries to the international subsea network; a regional first in this area which has already had a massive impact on the relevant populations now enjoying enhanced connectivity.
Thinking big and outside of the box is a theme ongoing within STG’s continuous improvement strategy, and not only allows the Company to contribute to more than half of the African population, but is compounded by a series of large scale projects recently seen or in the pipeline at present.
The first of which is the recently inaugurated Sudatel Data Centre which is one of the largest on the continent and has opened up a series of innovative opportunities for governments, banks, corporate entities and SMEs alike.
Elabdein explains: “Sudatel Data Centre is considered as one of a kind in Sudan and one of the top in Africa, and, to the cost of US$45 million, has been designed to the highest Tier 4 standards. It has been built to provide the whole set of data services, across IaaS, PaaS and SaaS and is the most reliable data centre in all of North, East and West Africa.
“The first stage of the Sudatel strategy is to provide IaaS to corporate customers and, accompanied with Sudatel’s corporate portfolio, it will be able to satisfy corporate turnkey solutions, to enable them to focus on their main business, and to reduce total cost of ownership and capital expenditures.”
The Data Centre has already been shortlisted as one of the best African Projects in 2015 and has set the tone for its similarly significant national broadband network; the deployment of a new national fibre network which will connect national cities as well as neighbouring Chad, Libya and Central Africa.
“This strategic project, with an investment of US$267 million is expected to enable and provide the needed infrastructure for the country’s E-government, and is planned to construct the broadband infrastructure in vast areas of the country,” Elabdein says. “This new major network infrastructure will also support the increase in the broadband penetration that subsequently will be linked to an increase in the country’s GDP, supporting the economic and social development of Sudan.”
The theme of empowerment and enrichment across its operating network is one that has differentiated STG over the years and is one that is present throughout all facets of its internal strategy also.
From a personnel and human capital perspective, Elabdein sees this localisation as the main success driver in the organisation, by ensuring that the Company develops the most talented, skilled, knowledgeable, satisfied and engaged staff in the sector.
“One of the biggest objectives and ultimate goals of Sudatel Group is to be the employer of choice in the Sudanese labour market, and in the wider region, not to mention the huge transformation occurring to Sudatel’s human capital management in order to achieve this important objective,” the CEO affirms.
The same commitment to local development exists outside the confines of Sudatel’s immediate projects and employees also, through a long and concerted dedication to corporate social responsibility activities.
Elabdein continues: “Sudatel Group has a long history with social activities and community development across all its operations in Sudan and West Africa. Our telecom projects directly focus on sustainable development so by having a solid telecommunication infrastructure, we are representing the CSR pillars that characterise our company.
“Our fibre network extends over 14,000 kilometres, we play a major role in social activities like water and irrigation, our submarine cables help to connect Sudan to the rest of Africa, and all of our projects make a major contribution to the sustainable development of Africa and in helping it to grow bigger.”
Process of transformation
The balancing act between local prosperity and global expansion is one that STG has mastered over the past 20 years, and is an attribute which will stand the Company in perfect stead as it looks towards future industry demands, and subsequent continuous improvement strategies.
“We have plans to expand the Company’s footprint in Africa and shift the Group’s focus to services,” Elabdein states. “The Group focus now is on the markets in which we are operating and the sub-Saharan region, and as the future of the ICT sector will be in Africa, we have some plans to acquire new licenses for telecommunication services.
“Generally speaking, our Group is in a process of transformation from a network-centric player to a customer-oriented service provider. This change will require a lot for work and investment to satisfy our customers.”
Subsequently capitalising on the great economic potential that West African markets are set to enjoy in the coming years, Sudatel’s role within the necessary upgrade of infrastructures required to facilitate such growth will be significant, continuing its model of winning customers and market share with creative value propositions, customer experience, lifetime value development and extensive distribution networks.
Elabdein concludes: “The Group has a strategic plan to invest around US$500 million in the coming five years, focusing mainly on broadband infrastructure and services in addition to the ICT transformation requirements to enable the Group to meet the current sector transition towards a digital ecosystem.
“This five-year strategy and business plan is based on a turnaround and transformation approach which aims towards consistent growth within the Group.
“The strategy’s main themes are business transformation through adopting the industry’s best practices, enhancing customer experience, laying the ground for ICT services, and finally developing the Company’s human capital. This strategy is based on exploring all the opportunities to maximise growth and increase shareholder’s returns.”