Mobile operator Zain Saudi Arabia has announced that it has launched a fourth-generation mobile network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with nationwide connectivity earmarked for the end of 2012. Zain claims to be the first cellco in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to inaugurate an LTE network, despite being beaten to the punch by both Mobily and Saudi Telecom Company (STC) – the last named by only a matter of hours. Speaking at a press conference in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fifi, Zain’s executive president for operations, confirmed that three-monthly LTE subscriptions are available for SAR350 (USD93.3), promising unlimited data usage. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Zain’s LTE ambitions date back to February 2010, when the cellco contracted Motorola to roll out what it hoped would be the Kingdom’s first LTE network. The rollout commenced in 2Q10 in Riyadh, overlaying Zain’s 3G infrastructure. At the time Zain claimed that the network will operate in the 2.6GHz frequency band.
In other news, Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) has indicated that it is finally set to complete due diligence on its joint USD950 million bid to buy a 25% stake in Zain Saudi Arabia within a matter of weeks. In statement released to the Saudi bourse, KHC stated: ‘Kingdom Holding announces that it is signing an agreement to end due diligence for the sale of the Zain Kuwait stake in Zain Saudi by the end of September 2011.’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, on 14 March Kuwait-based telecoms group Zain accepted a joint offer for its 25% stake in Zain Saudi Arabia from Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment vehicle, KHC.