Mobile penetration climbs but broadband hampered by lack of availability

12 Jun 2007

The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has released figures which show that the penetration of mobile services reached 89% at the end of March, up from 81% three months earlier. The number of mobile subscribers rose from 19.6 million to 21.5 million over the same period. The CITC also reports that there were four million fixed lines in service at the end of 2006, up from 3.8 million a year earlier, while the number of dial-up internet users has now passed five million. Broadband internet services are still in their infancy, however, with just 282,000 ADSL subscribers at the end of March, up from 218,000 three months before. The regulator says more than half of all applications for an ADSL connection are turned down because the customer lives more than 5km from their nearest local exchange.

The Saudi telecom sector generated revenues of USD10.7 billion in 2006, up 18% year-on-year, with USD8.1 billion of the total coming from the mobile market. Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is still the sole provider of fixed line services, although it recently lost its monopoly with the award of three national wireline concessions. STC currently competes with Mobily in the mobile market, with a third player – recently licensed Saudi MTC – preparing to launch early next year.