Wednesday 10 th October 2012, has witnessed the inauguration of the Sudatel Museum under the slogan “connecting the past to the present and the future”. This museum, located at the Sudatel Tower, is dedicated to the history of telecommunications in Sudan. It’s the first museum of its kind in Sudan, and comprises a number of antiques collectables related to the telecommunications field. It also tells the story of the introduction of telecommunications to Sudan back in 1859.
The emergence and evolution of telecommunications in Sudan
The telecommunications started in Sudan in 1859 on a wired basis communication system with Swakin as its hub being a city with high commercial importance and the country seaport. Chance had played its role in the introduction of telecommunications to Sudan when Britain sought to connect its colonies of North and East Africa with India, hence launched the project of the submarine cable that ran from Britain, across Gibraltar, Alexandria port in Egypt on the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, and Swakin port in Sudan on the Red Sea, and finally to India.
In 1866, during the Turkish rule in Sudan, the first telegraph line was built from north to south, via Wadi Halfa and Dongola, to connect Egypt to Sudan. The line reached Khartoum Bahri in 1870, then to Khartoum via sub-fluvial cable in the Blue Nile.
At the outbreak of the Mahdist Revolution in 1881, and during the siege of Khartoum in 1885, the Mahdi cut the telegraph line as part of his military strategy to isolate the enemy from the outside world.
In 1894, the telegraph line was restored by connecting Wadi Halfa to Cairo, and Kassala, Barbar and Swakin were reconnected. And in 1897, a telegraph line, running parallel to the railroad, was built. All these telegraph lines were administered by the military telegraph units.
In 1898, the telegraph and post departments were integrated into one and converted into a civil department under the name Sudan Posts and Telegraphs with its administration assigned to Mr J. S. Liddell who during his time the lines of the telegraph network were extended to Fashoda in the south, in addition to building El Obeid line through Ed Dueim, and Sennar to Al Qadarif and Kassala. The total length of these lines reached (3,200 miles) and served (38) telegraph offices.
During the time of Major Moore, the wireless communication system was introduced to Sudan with the start of establishing of a number of stations at Joumbaila, El Nasir, and Malakal. A digital station was established at Port Sudan, in addition to connecting Joumbaila to Addis Ababa, then El Kurmuk and Wau between 1918 and 1921.
In 1921, a major wireless station was established in Khartoum with a capacity of (6 Kilowatt) with high antennas. By 1929, the total number of these stations reached (19) stations and (84) telegraph offices, in addition to the mobile military offices which represented the main operating offices.
With regard to the telephone services in Sudan, it started relatively late in comparison with telegraph services, as the former started in 1897 parallel to the building of the railway being the first telephone line ever in Sudan.
In 1902, the first telephone exchange in Sudan was established, Magneto model, and 1904, two sub-exchanges were established in Omdurman and Bahri, one in each city, and they were interconnected by sub-fluvial cable with four sub-switchboards for each city. The total number of telephone lines counted (42) lines. The exchange operating hours were from 8:00 am until 01:30 pm, and from 03:00 pm until 05:30 pm except for Fridays. The average monthly call rate reached (4,319) calls with a total revenue of circa (660 pounds).
The year 1904 witnessed the establishment of communication lines by the district administration in Dongola between Merowe and Korti, and between Dongola and Al Khandaq. In 1905, the number of telephone lines increased to reach (48), and the telephone exchange operating hours were changed to work for longer hours during the day, in addition to operating on Fridays as well.
The major shift took place in 1922, when the Khartoum telephone exchange- with the capacity of 150 telephone lines and operating on Magneto system- was replaced by the (B) system with a larger capacity of 600 telephone lines. The switchboards at Omdurman and Wad Medani were replaced, and the Gezira Scheme network was established in order to facilitate the monitoring of the irrigation system, in addition to the improvement of Mukwar-Wad Medani line in May 1924. In 1925, the Khartoum Bahri exchange was removed from service and its subscribers were transferred to the Khartoum exchange via a new sub-fluvial cable.
In 1927, a telephone network in south Sudan was established through which Malakal was connected to Nonj and Talowdi. Same year the manual telephone exchange system was replaced by the automatic exchange for the first time in Sudan, and the rotary dialling was introduced as well.
In 1931, a station was established between Cairo and Khartoum, in addition to a number of internal stations at airports to provide information and directions to aeroplanes.
In 1936, the Meteorology Department was attached to the Post department, and the trunk lines’ works advanced and reached Kosti. Same year the manual telephone exchange system was replaced by the automatic exchange for the first time in Sudan, and the rotary dialling was introduced as well. The telephone exchange capacity reached (900) lines, and this setup went on until 1954.
In 1946, King Farouk inaugurated the Khartoum-Cairo trunk line. Same year the department shifted to operating on a commercial basis, and cancelled the free of charge services for government institutions, which helped the department to achieve a surplus in its budget, for the first time, of (400) pounds. Same year, the international telephone calls were initiated with the British Isles, and in 1947, service provision for international calls to Palestine and France started. In 1948, the international calls’ services covered as well the United States of America, Greece and Switzerland.
In 1952, the telephone services administration was separated from the engineers’ administration. A separate administration was established to attend to the duties of the department such as installation, telephone book, wages, accounting and training. And in 1953, new methods were developed regarding telephone accounts and the introduction of the mechanical calculators for the first time.
In 1964, the Telecommunications Institute was established, formerly known as the institute for engineers training.
In 1971, the Posts and Telegraphs Department was separated from the Wired and Wireless Communication Department; Radio and SUNA were separated as well.
In 1974, Um Haraz satellite station was established.
On 16/1/1987, a decree was issued to establish the General Corporation for Wired and Wireless Communication which owned, at the time starting its operations, (85) manual telephone exchanges (CB model) with a capacity of (10 to 100) lines the majority of which were in use since 1965, and a capacity of (2,240) lines.
On 13/9/1993, and in accordance with the Three-Year Economic Salvation Programme (1990-1993), the Sudanese Telecommunications Company was established (Sudatel) as a joint-stock company to replace the General Corporation for Wired and Wireless Communication.
In 1996, the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) was established with the objective to act as an active entity that ensures the regulation of the telecommunications environment, and to put in place the legal, regulatory, and legislative frameworks to promote a healthy climate for a free and fair competition.
In 1998, Sudatel introduced the mobile phone service to Sudan, and established an administration fully dedicated to it, not long before it turned into a separate telecommunications company, independent from the fixed-line, under the name Mobitel with a partnership which engaged other parts.
In 2002, the second license was granted to the Lebanese company Areeba marking the introduction of a second mobile phone service provider to the Sudanese market, alongside Mobitel.
In 2005, Areeba was sold to MTN-South Africa.
In 2005, Sudatel Group sold its shares in Mobitel to the Kuwaiti Zain Group to become part of Zain Group.
In April 2005, Canar was granted the license for becoming the third fixed-line service provider in Sudan, with a service portfolio to provide services in telephone, data, and high-speed internet using Next Generation Networks’ applications in the ensemble of its networks, also known as NGN which is based on IB Internet Protocol, in addition to other advanced technologies in providing its services including fibre-optic cables and wireless networks.
In 2006, Sudatel launched Sudani network for mobile telephone services to become the third mobile phone services provider in Sudan.