Mobily, Saudi Arabia’s second largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers, has announced the launch of its long-awaited Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, which it claims represents the first commercial LTE service to be launched in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The first phase of coverage includes the cities of Najran, Jazan, Al Kharj, Ras tanoura, Algurayat and Aldudamy, whilst the network will be extended to Hail, Al Baha, Al Mujamaaa and Wadi Al Dawasir within the next fortnight. The third phase of rollout – mooted for mid-October – will see the fourth-generation network extended to Riyadh, Jeddah and Damamm. Upon completion, the network will cover 32 cities and towns, representing around 85% of the populated areas in Saudi Arabia. Mobily CEO Khaled Al Kaf has described the launch as ‘a historical moment and a turning point in the world of communication technology’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Mobily reported the successful completion of LTE trials in the first trimester of 2010. Following the trials Mobily announced that it had awarded equipment manufacturers Huawei and Samsung two contracts each, for the deployment of a nationwide LTE network and also the upgrade of Bayanat Al Oula’s WiMAX sites, from Wave 1 to Wave 2 technology. The operator said that the LTE contract involved the commissioning of 2,400 towers in 33 cities across Saudi Arabia. Al Kaf indicated that Mobily’s overarching five-year strategy will see the operator ‘position itself around data’. The company reportedly doubled its ‘high volume’ mobile broadband subscriber base to 2.3 million customers in 2010, and generated some 18% of its revenues from data services.