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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.
|Subscribers to telecoms services (million): (e)|
(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
- 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.
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).