Saudi pledge to liberalise comms

Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has pledged to further liberalise the Kingdom’s comms sector following its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  January 15, 2006

Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has pledged to further liberalise the Kingdom’s comms sector following its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The CITC announced earlier this month that it is firmly committed to the continued liberalisation of the telecom market and increased competition. In a statement, it said that, as a result of the Kingdom’s entry to the WTO, it had received numerous enquiries with respect to further liberalisation, and crucially, that it “will aim to increase participation of new players.” As a result of the fresh liberalisation initiative, the CITC will involve various stakeholders, interested parties and the public, through a series of public consultations this coming year, as it looks to award new licenses for fixed-line and mobile services in the Kingdom. KSA already has one of the most liberal telecoms markets in the Middle East. Incumbent operator STC (Saudi Telecommunications Company) is challenged by a second privately-owned mobile operator, Mobily, with a third mobile operator set to launch in 2007. In the latest development, the CITC — the Kingdom’s regulatory agency responsible for the ICT sector — said that a full calendar of its activities is currently being developed, including how and when to apply for new licenses, and this will be made available early this year. The first step of the public consultation will begin in the second quarter of 2006, with the objective of awarding and issuing major licenses before the end of the year. The CITC also announced it has recently appointed a conso- rtium of consultants who will assist the CITC in developing strategies and fair and transparent processes on the road to awarding new licenses. The contract went to Arthur D. Little along with its technical and legal partners Assure Engineering and Shafiq Al-Othman. Saudi’s acceptance into the WTO was finally agreed on December 11, 2005. The Kingdom had been negotiating membership since 1993. Under its commitment to the WTO it has promised that, within three years, it will allow up to 70% foreign equity ownership in the communications sector. These commitments apply to both basic telecommunication services and value-added telecoms services. Public tel- ecommunications services will have to be provided by a joint stock company.

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