Saudi Arabian mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa (VMMEA) has launched commercial services in the country, despite reports last week that its introduction would be delayed until later this year due to a lack of cooperation from Saudi Arabia’s existing telcos. According to Reuters, the operator is offering its services via two brands: Virgin Mobile, which is targeting Saudi’s youth market, and Friendi Mobile, aimed at expatriates in the country. TeleGeography notes that 50% of Saudi Arabia’s population is below 25 years old, while the country is home to more than eight million foreign workers.
Meanwhile, start-up Saudi MVNO Jawraa Group (Lebara), which is 15% owned by London based Lebara with the remainder held by Saudi investors, has outlined plans to expand into other Arab states, including Tunisia and Morocco. Yasser Alobaidan, CEO at Lebara, was cited by Reuters as saying: ‘We are working on licence papers with Tunisia, we are working with the regulators in Morocco and Turkey as well as some Gulf markets.’
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in June 2013 the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) shortlisted three companies to be awarded MVNO licences – Dubai-based Axiom Union Mobile, VMMEA and Lebara. In April 2014, however, the CITC said that it would re-tender one of the MVNO licences, after revoking the authorisation provisionally granted to Axiom; the regulator has yet to announce the new recipient of the concession.