Saudi telecom switching to high gear
As part of the first phase of the year 2000 telecom development plan, Saudi Telecommunication Company (STC), Saudi Arabia’s newly established telecommunications company, has inaugurated a new digital line with 155 million pulses per second (Mbit/s) capacity. The new line links the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to New York via Cairo and London, using the FLAG fiber-optic undersea cable.
A similar 155 Mbit/s expansion is to be set by year’s-end, followed by a third expansion phase, planned for next year.
The largest and fastest growing of all Middle East telecom markets is to be found in Saudi Arabia. And this is also true when it comes to the Internet. According to recent surveys, approximately 2.2 million fixed lines and 1 million GSM lines connect as many as 300,000 Saudi Internet users to the World Wide Web. Although off to a relatively late start only a year and a half ago, Saudi Arabia rapidly achieved a 160 percent Internet user annual growth rate, the highest of all Arab countries.
Recent moves towards privatization of the kingdom’s telecom sector, along with the establishment STC, have produced a rash of new initiatives, which aim to improve and upgrade the services provided.
However, demand for new data communication services continues to surpass supply in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s clogged transmission network is inclined to act up. Last week, for example, the KACST network crashed, cutting-off all Saudi connections to the Internet for more than 17 hours.
In an effort to prevent such problem from reoccurring, STC plans to award two contracts for projects aimed at expanding the existing Internet and data infrastructure, in order to enhance the network’s accessibility and speed. Estimated to be worth around $50 million, the first contract involves upgrading 486 network sites. According to MEED, the five bidders for that project are France's Alcatel, Sweden's Ericsson, Germany's Siemens, and the U.S.-based Tellabs, and Paradyne.
The second contract, for what is referred to as STC’s “phase three” expansion, is estimated to be worth $20 million. Alcatel, Ericsson, Siemens, Canada's Nortel, and the U.S.-based Cisco Systems and Lucent Technologies have reportedly already submitted offers. ― (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)