Another achievement in Saudi Arabia communications and technology
Since the launch of Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s digital transformation has improved significantly. The information and communications technology sector is valued at $28.7 billion, making it the largest in the Arab world. The Kingdom has an internet penetration rate of 93 percent versus the global average of 53 percent, based on International Telecommunication Union figures. Saudi Arabia was the first adopter of commercial 5G technology in the region and the third-largest globally.
Last week, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) announced, in a first-of-its-kind initiative, the launching of open access agreements between telecom service providers. The six telecom service providers in the country have signed an agreement to open broadband for fixed communication networks, and it will enable the six companies (STC, Mobily, Zain Saudi Arabia, Integrated Communications, Photonics, and Etihad Atheeb Telecom) to have the provision of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband services through any subscriber-selected service provider, independent of fiber infrastructure ownership.
The agreement was signed by the chief executive officers of the six telecom companies in Riyadh with the witnessing of senior representatives from the country’s telecoms regulatory body, the CITC. The initiative aims to attract investment, encourage competition and increase broadband subscriptions by improving service quality and consumer choice.
In the global telecoms industry, it is the first time that a telecom regulator is the main driver of the signing of a nationwide active infrastructure sharing agreement among all operators in the market, both access seekers and access providers. The adoption of an open-access model will increase the use of fiber-optic infrastructure through the development of commercial agreements that make it easier for subscribers to move from one provider to another. Users will benefit from the open access for fixed communication networks among all the six companies that own the infrastructure within (90) days of signing the agreement.
Another achievement for the Kingdom globally is the quantum leap jumping in the ranking by 92 places reaching to 13th in global rankings for internet speed, with an average download speed of 55.6 Mbps. Also, Saudi Arabia currently has reached more than 900,000 FTTH subscribers and plans to have an additional 3.5 million properties by the end of 2020, according to figures published by the FTTH Council.
In my opinion, digitization of the economy is a cornerstone of Vision 2030 and will impact many sectors including defense, commerce, industry, medicine, transportation, logistics and others. The giga projects by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) will depend heavily on digitization and the latest technology in communications, especially the futuristic city, Neom. The arena is wide open for local and international companies to participate in the promising opportunities in digitizing the economy, especially with the government intention to deregulate this sector.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.