Virgin Mobile begins operations as Saudi MVNO
Virgin becomes first MVNO in the Kingdom as competitors struggle with regulation
Virgin Mobile MEA has launched as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Saudi Arabia, making it the first MVNO to begin operations in the Kingdom.
The launch came today despite reports that operations would have to be delayed until next year, as every MVNO continues to wrestle with regulatory approval and issues raised by the existing operators.
As an MVNO, Virgin Mobile will ‘piggy-back' on STC's network as a mobile network operator. It will go to market under two brands - Virgin Mobile and Friendi Mobile. Virgin Mobile will be targeted at Saudi's youth, while Friendi will be aimed at expatriates in the country, the company said.
Saudi Arabia will be the fifth country in which Virgin Mobile MEA has set up as an MVNO, the others being Oman, Jordan, South Africa and Malaysia.
"Our launch in Saudi Arabia with a full MVNO license from the telecom regulator CITC is a major milestone and has always been a key aspiration because of the large population and economic vibrancy of the Kingdom," said Mikkel Vinter, CEO and founder of Virgin Mobile MEA.
"We are grateful to the CITC for awarding us the MVNO licence, and we now look forward to bringing our innovative mobile service to Saudi Arabian customers."
Saudi Arabia is expecting two other MVNOs to begin operating soon, but both have struggled to get their businesses off the ground. Axiom Telecom, which was due to begin operations on Zain KSA's network, has seen no end of trouble with the CITC - earlier in the year, it had its MVNO licence revoked due to a problem with its application. And while Axiom maintained that it would push ahead with its plans by re-applying for the licence, the CITC has not yet come to a decision.
Meanwhile, Lebara, branded as the Jawraa Consortium, will be operating on Mobily's network, though the company has yet to begin operations in Saudi. Despite this, Lebara has already laid out plans to expand into other countries in the region, claiming that it has filed applications in Tunisia.