Years of conflict have decimated mobile networks and the communication infrastructure in parts of South Sudan, while in many other areas the mobile networks were shut down by government authorities during the conflict. The complicated taxation system and fluctuating licensing fees and tariffs have caused some telecommunications companies to roll back investment in the country. In 2018, disputes over taxes led to the shutdown of Vivacell, the country’s largest mobile network company accounting for one third of an approximate 3 million subscribers. The National Communication Authority of South Sudan shut down the company over claims of unpaid taxes amounting to US$66m in license fees. The exit of the company owned jointly by the secretariat of the ruling party, SPLM and Lebanon’s Fattouch Investment Group, meant that some 900,000 subscribers were locked out of communication overnight. There are also claims that the Vivacell network was shut down due to its close association with former SPLM general secretary and political detainee, Pagan Amum.
South Africa’s MTN and Kuwait’s Zain mobile networks are the only mobile companies operating in South Sudan as of 2019. These two companies have both reduced local investments and downsized their operations due to the economic turmoil that has impacted communication spending. The exorbitant taxes and licensing fees imposed by the South Sudan Communication Authority, coupled up with local state-imposed tariffs, have not only discouraged the expansion of current networks but also barred new players seeking to enter the market. This has made mobile communication very difficult. Although calling rates remain relatively inexpensive, Internet accessibility is poor due to extremely limited infrastructure amid growing demand.