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26 February 2024

Saudi telecoms told to end free roaming service

Saudi telecoms told to end free roaming service. (REUTERS)

By Reuters

Saudi Arabia's telecom watchdog has ordered the kingdom's three mobile phone companies to end a bar on charging a roaming premium on incoming calls made abroad from Saudi-registered phones, said the three firms.

Zain Saudi Arabia said it would implement the decision as of yesterday and would later announce fees for the service.

Kuwait's Zain holds a 25-per cent stake in Zain Saudi Arabia. Officials at the kingdom's leading mobile phone operators Saudi Telecom (STC) and Mobily also confirmed the CITC decision.

Hesham Abu-Jamea, head of asset management at Bakheet Investment Group, said the move was better news for dominant mobile phone firms STC and Mobily than for Zain Saudi Arabia, the last firm to enter the Saudi market.

CITC issued the decision because many clients had been subscribing to Saudi mobile services while living elsewhere.

Saudi Arabia is home to about eight million expats from dozens of countries.

CITC wants a rate to be fixed for the reception of roaming calls, which will probably be half the cost of an international call from Saudi Arabia, sources at the three firms said.

Analyst Abu Jamea said: "At first glance this is good news for all the operators because it brings additional revenue. But it will present Zain Saudi Arabia with a problem."

Zain Saudi Arabia shocked the global telecom industry when it paid a hefty $6.1 billion (Dh22.3bn) for a 25-year licence to enter a saturated market where cash-laden operators STC and Mobily – affiliated to Emirates Telecommunications – were already engaged in a fierce turf battle.


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