Saudi Arabian telco Etihad Etisalat, which operates under the ‘Mobily’ brand name, has admitted that it lacks sufficient spectrum to roll out its much-touted Long Term Evolution (LTE) network on a nationwide basis. In an interview with Reuters, chief executive Khaled al-Kaf suggested that rival operators in the Kingdom face similar constraints, despite a much-publicised flurry of LTE launch activity last September. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, that month saw Mobily, Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Zain Saudi Arabia all inaugurate LTE services within the space of 24 hours, with all three staking a claim to be the first operator in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to launch a commercial LTE network.
Al-Kaf told Reuters: ‘The regulator is working with different authorities in the Kingdom to free the spectrum. We don’t have the spectrum for mobile LTE. Spectrum will be a big issue in Saudi Arabia with the exponential growth in data’. The CEO said that the volume of data used on Mobily’s mobile network was 163 terabytes per day at the end of 2011, up from 85 terabytes per day at the start of the year, adding: ‘We expect this number will double year-over-year, so spectrum will be a bottleneck’.