The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is pressing ahead with the development of its communications infrastructure as a part of plans to reduce the country’s economic dependence on oil resources.
The strategic programmes, under its Vision 2030 agenda and the supporting National Transformation Programme 2020, are aimed at enhancing fixed and wireless broadband network expansion and digital transformation as well as creating business opportunities for service and network infrastructure providers.
Saudi telecoms reform: Vision 2030
A few important telecom goals of Vision 2030 are for the country to exceed 90% housing high-speed broadband coverage in densely populated cities and 66% in other urban zones.
Vision 2030 also aims to improve regulations and establish an effective partnership with telecom operators to better develop critical infrastructure.
The NTP programme aims to extend fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) coverage to 80% of densely populated urban areas and 55% of other urban areas and wireless broadband coverage with minimum 10 megabits per second to 70% of remote areas by 2020.
Competition in the fixed service telecom market
The Saudi regulator, CITC, has recently taken several steps to meet these goals. For instance, in April 2019, CITC awarded Integrated Telecom Company (ITC) a license to provide fixed-line services across the country. With the newly awarded license, the company is set to offer a full range of retail telecom services, including fixed voice and triple-play services. The move has added competition to the fixed service market, which is currently dominated by the Saudi Telecom Company (STC).
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Digital spectrum sale
To drive digital infrastructure development, in January 2019 the CITC awarded the 290MHz spectrum in the 2300MHz and 2600MHz bands to the country’s mobile services providers: STC, Mobily and Zain Saudi Arabia. The 15-year licenses ensure secured frequencies for the provision of 4G/5G services and will help telcos meet the increasing demand for mobile services as well as improve quality and data transmission speeds.
In June 2019, the STC launched new 5G home broadband services in several cities in the Kingdom. This will spur market competitors to offer similar services and will support meeting the goals of Vision 2030.