Saudi Arabia to licence new operators this year

13 Mar 2006

Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said that it will award new mobile and fixed line operating licences before the end of 2006. The new concessions will break the monopoly of Saudi Telecom (STC) on wireline telephony and add at least one new national cellco to the present line-up of STC and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily). CITC said it planned to publish a licensing schedule in the third quarter of this year and evaluate, select and award the licences by the end of the fourth quarter. Saudi Arabia has around four million fixed lines (up from 3.7 million at end-2004) serving a population of over 23 million, and a miniscule broadband penetration rate. The mobile sector has room for significant growth, with an estimated 14.3 million subscribers at the end of February. Mobily, which started operations in May 2005, reported last month that it had signed up 2.3 million users compared to STC’s twelve million. A third cellco, EAE Al-Jawwal, is licensed to offer services in Riyadh only, and has a much smaller subscriber base.

Saudi Arabia