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Saudi broadband use to grow 16-fold

With three new fixed line operators expected next year broadband could roll out dramatically by 2010, report says.

Saudi Arabia could see a 16-fold increase in broadband internet usage over the next three years, due to new operators coming online, Gulf News reports.

Regional investment bank EFG-Hermes said the country was one of the fastest growing markets in the region with total spend on telecom services at $10.6 billion last year.

Broadband has lagged behind, currently reaching less than one % of residents, however this is set to change with three new fixed line operators expected on the scene in 2008. EFG-Hermes said broadband penetration was expected to reach 16% in 2010.

Analyst Wael Ziada said "The issuance of three fixed line licences at once was a surprisingly aggressive move on the part of the regulator and is expected to drive aggressive competition in all fixed line services, especially data, broadband and international voice.”

The country’s two existing operators Saudi Telecommunication Co and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) totalled 19.6 million mobile subscribers last year, 82% of the population.

There were 3.9 million fixed line subscribers last year, for a 16.7% penetration rate. Overall internet service, including dial-up, was used by 20% in 2006.

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