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Saudi Arabia moves closer to telecoms deregulation

The Saudi telecom sector is in the final stages of preparing to open up after the government passed a series of bills that lay the groundwork for liberalisation.

The Saudi telecommunications sector is one step closer to liberalisation after the government approved laws necessary for the move.

The cabinet met on Monday to pass the new legislation, three laws that are set up a regulatory framework for the sale of stakes in the sector to private investors.

“This is a crucial and important step towards liberalising the sector,” said finance and economy minister Ibrahim al-Assaf yesterday.

According to Assaf, the first law approves the regulatory system, the second sets up an authority responsible for issuing licences, and the third settles the status of PTT employees who have been transferred to STC.

Analysts predict that the Saudi telecom sector will be in need up to US $11 billion of investment over the next five years, making it obvious why the government has chosen to privatise it now.

But it is still unclear whether foreign companies will be permitted to buy stakes in telecom businesses, after the sector appeared on the “forbidden list” that the government published earlier this year.

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