Regional players eye up two of Saudi’s three MVNO concessions

8 Dec 2011

Middle Eastern mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) Renna Mobile and FRiENDi Group have both expressed interest in securing MVNO concessions in Saudi Arabia in early-2012. Reuters reports that the duo confirmed their intentions this week, after national telecoms regulator the Communications and IT Commission (CITC) reiterated its plans to issue three reseller licences in early-2012. Joakim Klingefjord, CEO of Renna Mobile, commented: ‘It will be opportunistic for us – it all depends on which regulators allow new markets to open up. To get people to switch providers, you need to either come with a strong brand — which is not the case if you are a newcomer – or you can target a segment that is more likely to churn, which is usually the cost-conscious segment’. Meanwhile, Mikkel Vinter, his counterpart at UAE-based FRiENDi Group, asserted: ‘The telecoms industry will develop from today’s one-size fits all. Our vision is that you will have consolidation at network level, but have a flourishing of brands at a service level. The next wave of growth will come from providing customers with different services that fit their lifestyle for which they will be willing to pay for beyond the basic voice and data’.

TeleGeography notes that FRiENDi already has a presence in the Kingdom; in January 2011, Zain KSA, Saudi Arabia’s third mobile operator, launched a new pre-paid mobile package in partnership with the MVNO goup, which had previously introduced resale services in Oman and Jordan – the latter also in association with Zain. At the time, Vinter clarified: ‘This is a partnership outsourcing agreement rather than an MVNO. It is a package operated by Zain, but branded FRiENDi. We will be working with Zain on certain aspects of the branding and distribution and services and so on, so it is a joint effort’. Vinter added that the package is designed to target international customers, including foreigners who live in Saudi Arabia, and nationals who have family or friends overseas, although roaming rates remained the same as those offered by Zain. As of mid-October 2011 FRiENDi Saudi claimed that it had achieved a customer base of around 700,000.