Saudi confirms more phone licences

Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed that new mobile and fixed-line phone licences will be granted by the end of this year. The Kingdom’s telecoms watchdog, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), last week announced the timescale for the award of the new licences.

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  March 19, 2006

Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed that new mobile and fixed-line phone licences will be granted by the end of this year. The Kingdom’s telecoms watchdog, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), last week announced the timescale for the award of the new licences. CITC said that public consultations on key policy issues are taking place during the second quarter of this year. Public consultations on licensing criteria and processes and, crucially, publishing of the licensing sch- edule would take place in Q3. The fourth quarter of this year will see the submission of applications by interested parties and the subsequent evaluation, selection and award of the new licenses by the CITC. “The CITC, supported by its consultants (Arthur D. Little), is studying the requirements for issuing the licenses while taking into consideration international experience in this field, state-of-the-art technologies for providing ICT services and the Kingdom’s commitments under the WTO,” the statement, issued on March 11, said. When they are set in motion, the new licences will break the monopoly of Saudi Telecom (STC) on landline phone services and add a third mobile phone operator after STC and Mobily (Etisalat-Etihad). In November last year, CITC head Mohammed Al Suwaiyel voiced worries that declining international interest in landline services could hurt plans to issue a second fixed licence in 2006. These fears now appear to have receded. Saudi Arabia, which in population terms makes up half of the Middle East, has the largest telecommunications market in the GCC region and with just four million existing fixed lines, the new licence will offer wide scope for growth in a country of 24 million people. With 14.5 million mobile lines, the wireless sector is also primed for expansion. Mobily — which started operations in May last year — reported last month it had 2.3 million users, compared to 12 million mobile phone clients for STC.

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