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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

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Published by Arman Ul Nasar

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Published by: Arman Ul Nasar on Mar 23, 2011
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© CIT Publications Limited Telecommunications Markets in the Middle East
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
Country profile
Key dataKey data
Area (sq km): 2,150,000Population (million): 21.5Population per sq km: 10Capital: RiyadhPopulation of capital: 1.3 millionLanguage: ArabicExchange rate:- spot rate (10/02/00) SAR=USD1 3.75- annual average (1999) SAR=USD1 3.75GDP 2000 (USD billion - forecast): 140.9GDP per capita 2000 (USD thousand): 6.56
Sources: FT, CIA Factbook, EIU 
Political and economic profilePolitical and economic profile
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies approximatelyfour-fifths of the Arabian peninsula and borders Iraq,Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Yemen and the UnitedArab Emirates. It is an arid country with vast expansesof largely uninhabited desert and is subject to extremechanges in temperature. Due to the predominance of theoil and gas industries, around a quarter of Saudi Arabia’spopulation is made up of foreign nationals. The countryis divided into 13 administrative provinces called
. A large section of the border with Yemenremains undefined.There are no political parties or elections in Saudi Arabia,as the country is governed by a hereditary monarch, whosince June 1982 has been King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz AlSaud. The King appoints a Council of Ministers - mainlyfrom the royal family - to carry out governmental duties.Saudi Arabia controls over a quarter of the world’s oilreserves and its economy relies heavily on the price of oil; approximately 75% of budget revenues, 40% of GDPand 90% of export earnings come from the petroleumindustry. During a slump in world oil prices in 1998 thecountry’s GDP fell by around 11% and the governmentwas forced to cut spending the following year. Theauthorities have attempted to diversify the economy inrecent years in order to reduce the country’s dependenceon fossil fuel exports, but with little success; agriculture,for example, contributes only 6% of GDP and a shortageof water for irrigation limits the possibility of self-sufficiency. Thanks to a Saudi-led drive to reduceproduction, oil prices rose in 1999 and the GDPregistered a positive growth of around 2%. By early 2000prices had reached their highest levels for nine years,leading to calls for production to be stepped up onceagain.Unemployment is virtually non-existent, with around25% of the workforce employed in the oil and gasindustries. The major part of Saudi exports headeastwards to countries such as Japan and Korea, whilethe largest sources of imports are the US and the UK.Saudi Arabia is one of 14 Arab nations to have signed upto take part in the Arab Free Trade Zone which is due tobe introduced by 2007. The exchange rate of the SaudiRiyal has been pegged to the US dollar since 1986.
boundary undefined
© CIT Publications Limited Telecommunications Markets in the Middle East
Saudi ArabiaBasic telephony
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s basic telephony marketis overseen by the former telephone operator the Ministryof Post, Telegraph and Telephone (MoPTT), which wasspun off from the Ministry of Transport in 1976.In May 1998 the Saudi government announced that theMoPTT had handed over its telephone networks to thenewly formed Saudi Telecom Company (STC), whichwas set up with an initial capital of USD2.67 billion. Thegovernment intends eventually to privatise up to 80% of the new company, although no firm plans for this hadbeen announced by February 2000. As part of thisprivatisation process the government proposes to createan independent telecoms commission which will assumethe regulatory and licensing responsibilities of theMoPTT, leaving the ministry to produce legislation.
Basic telephony market overviewBasic telephony market overview
The state-owned Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has amonopoly of Saudi Arabia’s facilities-based voicetelephony market. At the end of September 1999 itsinfrastructure connected 2.55 million residential andbusiness subscribers, up from 2.35 million nine monthsearlier. In March 1999 STC announced plans to increaseits fixed line teledensity from 12 lines per 100 inhabitantsto around 25 to 30 lines by installing a further fourmillion lines by 2005. Away from the major cities, muchof STC’s infrastructure is based on microwavetechnology.In November 1998 STC invited bids for its eighthtelephone expansion project (TEP8), a USD6 billion planto install an additional two million lines, establish newexchanges, replace parts of the existing copper network with fibre-optic cable and introduce microwave links toareas with no fixed infrastructure. After a series of delays, five companies entered bids to supply equipmentfor the project by the February 1999 deadline - Lucent,Ericsson, Siemens, Nortel and Alcatel. By February 2000STC still had not chosen the winning bidder and adecision is not expected until mid-2000; the operator isexpected to split the work between two or threesuppliers rather than give it all to a single company. Thedelay has been blamed on the weakness of oil prices,which has affected government cash flow.In November 1999 STC announced the completion of TEP6, 18 months ahead of schedule. The plan, whichcalled for the installation of 1.5 million digital fixed linesand capacity for 200,000 GSM mobile connections, wasnot due to be completed until mid-2001. The USD4billion contract for TEP6 was originally awarded toAT&T Network Systems (now Lucent Technologies) inMay 1994. As part of the project, 1,500 isolated villageswere connected to STC’s network. In a separate dealworth around USD111 million, Lucent was contracted inmid-1998 to upgrade the PTO’s switch systems,covering approximately 900,000 lines. Towards the endof 1999 STC awarded a USD12 million contract to SRTelecom of Canada for the installation of TDMA wirelessin the local loop (WiLL) equipment in central andsouthwestern areas of the kingdom.As well as residential telephony, STC offers leased linesand data services and provides international voice anddata communications thanks to its membership of theArabsat, Intelsat and Inmarsat international satellite
organisations (
see Other markets section
). At March1999 STC had around 6,000 data lines in service.Through the MoPTT, the Saudi government has stakesin several international cable systems. It was one of themajor investors in the SEA-ME-WE 2 undersea cablewhich links Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia,contributing approximately 15% of the total cost of theproject. In addition, in September 1999 STC signed anagreement to purchase capacity on the Fibre-optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) system, a 28,000km cablewhich stretches from the UK to Japan. FLAG’s landingstation at Jeddah entered operation in July 1999. SaudiArabia is connected to the neighbouring island of Bahrainvia a 70km fibre-optic cable which runs alongside theKing Fahd causeway, while a point-to-point microwavelink offers a terrestrial connection to Sudan.
Facilities-based licenseesFacilities-based licensees
Operator and ownership Date first Operating licence Local telephonelicensed subscribers
STC (state 100%) 1998 Local, long-distance, international 2.55 millionTotal number of telephone subscribers (Sept 1999):2,551,372Teledensity (Sept 1999): 12%
Source: operator 
© CIT Publications Limited Telecommunications Markets in the Middle East
Saudi ArabiaBasic telephony
In June 1999 STC awarded a contract for the installationof 100,000 smart-card payphone to the local companySilkilasilki Telecommunications, formed in 1999 from themerger of some of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s telecomsoperations with Abdulaziz Al-Hagabani’s National Groupfor Communications. Silkilasilki Telecommunications willreceive 16% of all revenues from the payphones forseven years after their installation, at which time STCwill regain full ownership.On 1 July 1999 the government took tentative stepstowards competition in the basic telephony market whenit awarded four licences to Saudi companies for theprovision of public telephony services using pre-paidcards. One of the companies, National AdvancedSystems Company (Nasco), plans to introduce cardscosting between SAR25 and SAR200.
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 30001995199619971998Sept 19991,7001,9002,1002,3482,551PSTN (000)
Growth of main lines 
Source: STC 
Total number of subscribers

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