Saudi Arabia to grant new MVNO licences in 2020


Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has announced that it will open up the Saudi market to new mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in a bid to increase competition and drive innovation in the mobile communications sector.

Prospective applicants will have until the 10th May 2020 to submit their applications for an MVNO licence to the country’s telecoms regulator.

“The licensing of new MVNOs will enhance innovation in the services provision and make more options available to telecommunications and information technology end users in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the licenses are expected to generate new jobs in this vital sector of the Kingdom’s economy”, CITC said in a statement.

Traditionally, the opening of markets to new MNO and MVNO providers has resulted in lower costs and wider choice for consumers. MVNOs use existing network architecture, owned by MNOs, and the opening up of Saudi Arabia’s telecoms market to more participants will represent a huge opportunity for the country’s current mobile network operators to earn significant revenues by leasing network capacity to the new players.  This will be a key opportunity for Saudi’s incumbent MNOs to boost their revenue streams – particularly as they look to ramp up investment in their fledgling 5G networks.

MVNOs made their Saudi Arabian debut in 2015, when Virgin Media and Lebara KSA both launched services. Virgin Media launched on Saudi Telecom’s (STC) network, whilst Lebara launched using Mobily’s network infrastructure.

Saudi Arabia currently has 42 million mobile subscribers and three mobile network operators (STC, Mobily and Zain). The country has so far made close to 1,000MHz of 5G spectrum available to its operators, with the country being amongst the first in the world to launch commercial 5G network services.

By Chris Kelly

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