Saudi telco Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has announced that it has achieved its objective to cover 60% of the population in 31 provinces in the central and western regions of the country ahead of schedule; the obligations were set out by the Communications and IT Commission’s (CITC’s) Universal Service Fund (USF). Under Project No. VII, which aims to increase connectivity in twelve provinces in Riyadh and 13 provinces in Qaseem, Mobily has constructed 216 new towers, while 197 existing base transceiver stations (BTS) in the two regions were upgraded, thus increasing coverage in 1,147 communities. Meanwhile, Project No. VIII, which aims to improve telecoms services in six provinces in the Mecca region, saw Mobily build 137 new towers, while 80 BTS were upgraded; 80% of the targeted population in 759 communities gained access to telecoms services following the expansion.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the CITC awarded the two USF projects to Mobily in December 2013: the first project encompasses 1,868 communities in the provinces of Qaseem and Riyadh, while the second seeks to increase connectivity for nearly 330,000 residents of Mecca province. The regulator has also received approval for its Fifth Operational Plan, which will see three projects funded by the USF: Project No. IX covers 1,130 communities in Madinah and Hail; Project No. X will improve connection to almost 1.2 million people in Aseer Province; while Project No. XI will encompass 457 communities in Tabuk. All three contracts were expected to be awarded in 2014, although no further details have emerged.