Saudi Arabia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

Executive summary

Fingerprinting law impacts upon mobile subscriber growth in Saudi Arabia

The mobile sector has become an important component of Saudi Arabia’s telecom industry and contributes around 75% to overall telecoms revenues. The popularity of mobile technology is also driving up Internet usage as Saudi Arabia has a very high mobile phone penetration coupled with a high ownership of smart phones. This has led to a growth in Internet usage in recent years and a rising demand on mobile broadband services.

However, the growth of the mobile sector recently faltered due primarily to a regulatory change. In order to tighten control and security of mobile phone usage and ownership; in early 2016 the Saudi Ministry of Interior began implementing its biometric fingerprinting law. The law was originally passed in September 2015 and requires consumers to supply their fingerprint when purchasing a SIM card, with the information being shared with the National Information Centre. The law resulted in a marked decline in mobile subscribers in 2016, including mobile broadband subscriptions.

Broadband penetration is growing strongly in Saudi Arabia. Broadband is available via ADSL, fibre, and wireless. In 2017 ADSL subscriptions still account for the largest proportion of fixed broadband subscriptions.

Looking at the larger picture; Saudi Arabia has its sights firmly set upon improving its economic strength and diversifying away from its reliance on oil. The government has developed the “Saudi Arabia Vision 2030” program which provides the country with a roadmap of goals and objectives for the future improvement of Saudi Arabia. Supporting the use of digital technologies such as cloud computing and encouraging ICT development feature heavily in Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future.

Table 1 – Key telecom parameters – 2013; 2016

Sector 2013 2016
Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e)
Fixed Broadband 2.9 3.0
Fixed-line telephony 4.9 3.5
Mobile phone 50.9 48.0

Key developments:

  • In 2017 both STC and Zain Saudi Arabia forged managed services partnerships which will see their networks upgraded and improved. Zain signed a five-year deal with Ericsson and STC formed a three-year partnership with Cisco.
  • Saudi Arabia’s regulator, the CITC, has raised the possibility of regulating cloud computing in order to promote and encourage its development.
  • In February 2017 Go Telecom’s losses were exceeding its capital.
  • In December 2016, the SeaMeWe-5 submarine cable system was completed. SeaMeWe-5 connects Saudi Arabia as well as 15 other countries.
  • In 2016 STC purchased a further 25.8% share of Kuwait’s Viva giving STC a 51.8% stake.
  • In late 2016 the Saudi government planned to award unified licenses to Zain Saudi Arabia, Mobily and GO Telecom, which would allow the operators to offer fixed line telephony services. In the past only STC was permitted to do so.
  • Companies covered in this report include:

Saudi Telecom Company (STC)/Bravo, Integrated Telecom Company (ITC)/Bayn Consortium, GO Telecom/Etihad Atheeb, Mobily/Ettihad Etisalat/Bayanat Al-Oula, Zain KSA, Arabsat, ART, Orbit, Rotana, Lebara KSA/Etihad Jawraa, Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (Virgin Mobile MEA), Axiom Telecom,VIVA, Saudi Electricity Company (SEC).

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
    • 2.1 Country overview
  • 3. Telecommunications market
    • 3.1 Historical overview
    • 3.2 Market analysis
    • 3.3 Market analysis
      • 3.3.1 Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
    • 3.4 Recent developments
  • 4. Regulatory environment
    • 4.1 Historic overview
    • 4.2 Regulatory authority
    • 4.3 Telecom sector liberalisation
    • 4.4 Data service provider licences
      • 4.4.1 Fixed-line licences
      • 4.4.2 New satellite broadband license
    • 4.5 Interconnect and access
    • 4.6 Number Portability (NP)
    • 4.7 Universal service
  • 5. Fixed network operators in Saudi Arabia
    • 5.1 Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
    • 5.2 Integrated Telecom Company (ITC)
    • 5.3 GO Telecom (Etihad Atheeb)
  • 6. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 6.1 Overview of the national telecom network
      • 6.1.1 Alternative operators’ infrastructure
    • 6.2 International infrastructure (satellite, submarine)
      • 6.2.1 Terrestrial cable networks
      • 6.2.2 Submarine cable networks
      • 6.2.3 Satellite networks
    • 6.3 Specific IT developments (data centres, cloud computing)
  • 7. Smart infrastructure
    • 7.1 M2M/IoT/Big Data
    • 7.2 Smart grids
    • 7.3 Smart cities
  • 8. Broadband access market
    • 8.1 Introduction and statistical overview
    • 8.2 Internet access
    • 8.3 Censorship
    • 8.4 Broadband statistics
  • 9. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) networks
    • 9.1 Introduction
  • 10. Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP)
    • 10.1 Introduction
    • 10.2 STC
    • 10.3 GO Telecom
    • 10.4 Mobily
  • 11. Other fixed broadband services
    • 11.1 Fixed wireless (WiFi and WiMAX)
      • 11.1.1 WiFi
      • 11.1.2 WiMAX
  • 12. Digital economy
    • 12.1 e-Commerce
    • 12.2 e-Banking and m-Banking
    • 12.3 e-Government
    • 12.4 e-Health
    • 12.5 e-Education
  • 13. Digital media
    • 13.1.1 Introduction
      • 13.2 Videostreaming
        • 13.2.1 Broadband TV (IPTV)
      • 13.3 Social media
    • 14. Mobile communications
      • 14.1 Market analysis
      • 14.2 Mobile statistics
        • 14.2.1 General statistics
        • 14.2.2 Mobile voice
        • 14.2.3 Mobile data
      • 14.3 Mobile broadband statistics
      • 14.4 Regulatory issues
        • 14.4.1 Award of second GSM mobile licence
        • 14.4.2 iDEN contract awarded
        • 14.4.3 Award of Third Generation (3G) licences
        • 14.4.4 Award of third mobile licence
        • 14.4.5 Mobile license extensions 2016
        • 14.4.6 Roaming
        • 14.4.7 MTRs
        • 14.4.8 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
        • 14.4.9 Fingerprinting law
      • 14.5 Mobile infrastructure
        • 14.5.1 GSM, 3G
        • 14.5.2 LTE, LTE-A
        • 14.5.3 Satellite mobile
      • 14.6 IoT and M2M networks
      • 14.7 Major mobile operators
        • 14.7.1 Saudi Telecom Company (STC)
        • 14.7.2 Mobily (Etihad Etisalat)
        • 14.7.3 Zain KSA
      • 14.8 Mobile content and applications
        • 14.8.1 m-commerce
        • 14.8.2 m-banking (payments/loans)
      • 14.9 Mobile handsets
    • 15. Related reports
    • Table 1 – Key telecom parameters – 2013; 2016
    • Table 2 – Country statistics – Saudi Arabia - 2016
    • Table 3 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2016
    • Table 4 – Telephone network statistics – 2016
    • Table 5 – Broadband statistics – 2016
    • Table 6 – Mobile statistics – 2016
    • Table 7 – National telecommunications authorities
    • Table 8 – Saudi Arabia – GDP and inflation – 2011 - 2016
    • Table 9 – Saudi Arabia – mobile, fixed-line and total telecoms revenue – 2001 - 2015
    • Table 10 – Fixed telephone and mobile subscriber penetration – 2006 – Q3 2016
    • Table 11 – STC Group revenue and profit – 2005 – 2016
    • Table 12 – Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1995 - 2004
    • Table 13 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 2005 - 2016
    • Table 14 – International Internet bandwidth – 2010 - 2015
    • Table 15 – IT market revenue – 2006 - 2015
    • Table 16 – Fixed internet users and user penetration – 2005 - 2016
    • Table 17 – Fixed broadband subscriptions – technologies and penetration – 2010 – Q3 2016
    • Table 18 – Saudi Arabia – household PC penetration – 2002 - 2015
    • Table 19 - Facebook Stats for Saudi Arabia versus Middle East as at August 2016
    • Table 20 - Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate - 1995 - 2004
    • Table 21 - Mobile subscribers and penetration – 2007 – 2016
    • Table 22 – Major mobile operators’ subscribers and market shares – 2005 - 2015
    • Table 23 – Saudi Arabia – prepaid subscribers – 2002 -Q3 2016
    • Table 24 – Zain prepaid subscribers – 2008 - 2015
    • Table 25 – Mobile broadband subscriptions – technologies and penetration – 2010 – Q3 2016
    • Table 26 – STC revenue and profit – 2015; 2016
    • Table 27 – Mobily revenue – 2006 – Q3 2016
    • Table 28 – Zain KSA subscribers and revenue – 2008 - 2015
    • Exhibit 1 – Wasel service project
    • Exhibit 2 – MBC/Al Arabiya
    • Exhibit 3 – Historical – Bravo

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