The telephone network in Saudi Arabia will be totally digital by the end of this year, the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) announced Sunday.
"STC will become 100 percent digital by the end of 2000," STC director general Abdul Rahman ibn Ahmad al-Yami told the official Saudi Press Agency.
More than 1.5 million existing lines have already been replaced in old exchanges, he said.
Yami added that once the digital network was complete, STC would enable subscribers to receive bills via the Internet.
The costs of local, international and mobile calls as well as subscriptions, among the highest in the Gulf, is set to fall following a study, the director general said, adding that new prices had not yet been decided.
Yami also said there would be 2.2 million mobile lines in Saudi Arabia by the end of this year.
Last October, it was reported that STC would offer between 20 and 40 percent ownership to foreign investors.
A member of US Commerce Secretary William Daley's delegation on a regional tour estimated the value of STC at between 10 and 12 billion dollars.
"The Saudis told us between 20 and 40 percent of STC will be available to foreign companies," he said, asking not to be named. But no date was given for the start of privatization.
STC is expected to go public in stages in a bid to help raise the massive investment needed to meet demand within Saudi Arabia, notably for Internet services, and to improve existing technology – RIYADH (AFP)
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