LONDON: Saudi Arabia is opening up its telecom sector to further competition with plans to award licenses to foreign mobile virtual network operators.
The Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) made the disclosure on Tuesday. It is part of a broader plan to accelerate the ICT sector’s growth by 50 percent in the Kingdom and increase its contribution to GDP by $13.3 billion.
The move will create more competition for industry incumbents Saudi Telecommunications Company, Mobily and Zain.
The government has also offered MVNO licenses to Virgin, Etihad Jawraa and Lebara.
“While new licenses will enhance prospects for investment in the sector, it is also a concrete demonstration of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to welcoming innovative companies to realize the Kingdom’s commercial opportunities,” said CITC Gov. Mohammed Al-Tamimi.
“What distinguishes the ICT sector in the Kingdom is the breadth of new opportunities we offer where cutting-edge companies can allow their creativity to flourish in a rapidly expanding market,” he said.
There are 43.8 million mobile subscribers in Saudi Arabia with a mobile penetration rate of 129 percent of the total population.
Information technology investment in Saudi Arabia is being driven by its young and tech-savvy population, 58 percent of whom are under the age of 30.
The Kingdom also has one of the highest social media penetration rates in the world.