CITC to re-tender third MVNO licence; Zain left in limbo

10 Apr 2014

Saudi Arabia’s telecoms watchdog the Communications and IT Commission (CITC) will re-tender the country’s third mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence, after revoking the authorisation provisionally granted to Dubai-based retailer Axiom Telecom, Al Arabiya reports. Axiom CEO Faisal al-Bannai revealed that his firm had been unable to submit all of the necessary documentation, prompting the cancellation. The executive added: ‘We have resolved that issue and will be submitting our tender in the next 48 hours’. The development is a setback for Axiom’s domestic host provider Zain Saudi Arabia, with the operator forced to watch as the country’s two approved MVNOs prepare to launch on its rivals’ platforms, while it is not yet in a position to collect revenue from its own. Zain Saudi CEO Hassan Kabbani said: ‘All three MVNOs should start at the same time when all will be ready’, although the regulator has argued that the launch of services by Virgin Mobile MEA (VMMEA) and Jawraa Group’s (Lebara’s) remains an independent issue.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in June 2013 the CITC shortlisted three companies to be awarded MVNO licences – Axiom Telecom, in collaboration with Zain Saudi; VMMEA, with host provider Saudi Telecom Company (STC); and Lebara, in partnership with Mobily (Etihad Etisalat). The CITC approved the issuance of an MVNO licence to VMMEA in March 2014, and the MVNO is scheduled to launch by mid-2014. Lebara was officially awarded its concession by the regulator at the end of March and will introduce commercial services in Q2 2014.