Communications to, from and within southern Sudan are tricky. There are NO land lines so all communications takes some kind of wireless. For the UN, SSB and VHF radios dot each of the vehicles like flag staffs. For MCC, it takes 4 different phones. Sudani, Zain, Gemtel, Safaricom and Thuraya are all companies vying for your communications dollars (or Pounds as is the currency here). None of these phone services work well all the time and some of MCC partners or areas of the country favor one of the services. Thus the reps need for one of each kind of phone.
The most intriguing is the largest phone in the picture, a Thuraya a satellite phone. These hand held devices have shrunk drastically in the past years yet their air time has not. One US Dollar per minute is pricey yet given that these can make phone calls hundreds of miles from the nearest cell tower in the most remote place in Africa, means that one is always in touch.
On the internet front, since there are no wires (phone or cable TV) going from house to house, one has to have some kind of wireless internet. Enter VSAT, a satellite based internet service. Using a 1.2 meter Ku Band dish, internet signals are sped up and down through a satellite 36,000 Km above the equator. In a place with limited quality infrastructure this is a very reliable system…until a heavily laden rain cloud moves in between the satellite dish and the satellite. Then there is a gap in signals until the rain has passed.
Staying in touch is complicated in Southern Sudan but there are now many more resources to do so compared to the days of the drum and runner.