The Saudi mobile network will reach 5.5 million lines by 2003, in an expansion move set to make the Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Etisalat, the largest and the most advanced GSM operator in the Middle East, STC deputy chief, Saud Al-Duwaish, recently told Al-Hayat.
Finaland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson firms have recently won tenders totaling over $800 million, for the expansion of Saudi Arabia’s cellular network, with in the framework of the nation’s fifth telecom expansion scheme.
Under the program, an additional 2.9 million mobile lines are to be installed by the end of 2002. This will constitute a capacity expansion of 112 percent, as today the kingdom’s GSM network offers the 21-million Saudis only 2.6 million lines.
Currently, 85 percent of this capacity has been taken up by subscribers, and the mobile user-base is growing by 120,000 users a month, translated to an estimated eight to 10 percent growth rate a month.
The Saudi Telco is also planning to soon initiate development schemes with a total investment of SR 427 million ($114 million). The flagship projects would be a SR55 million alternative system for disaster situations and a five million SR support system for switching stations.
Etisalat’s plans also include a SR30 million investment in an e-commerce infrastructure project and installation of a DAS OSPS system, costing some SR 30 million. The project also consists of providing a number of new services such as the WAP, GPRS, prepaid telephone cards, which will be executed within a 15-24 month period.
The Saudi government announced in May that it is resolved to end STC’s state monopoly on telecommunications sector, and to open up to foreign capital. — (Mena Report)
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