With three MVNOs due to launch in Saudi Arabia in the coming months, the country’s telecoms sector will be the focus of the region. Saudi Arabia’s regulator, the CITC, has made huge efforts to make its telecoms sector truly competitive, having already implemented measures such as mobile number portability to help boost customer services.
But the launch of MVNOs will put the market into a different league. For the three mainstream operators, STC, Mobily and Zain, the MVNOs will be something of a dual-edged sword. Each operator stands to benefit from generating extra revenue from spare capacity on their networks that they might not otherwise have made use of. But each operator also faces the harsh reality of additional competition. They will all be forced to take a closer look at the type of packages they are offering and ensure they are catering to the key segments that they want to address.
It will be interesting to observe the strategies of the MVNOs, their go-to-market strategies and, further down the road, their level of success. There is no doubt that operators in Gulf countries that currently lack MVNOs will also watch these developments very carefully, as they may well be next to face this change in their home market.
Each of the MVNOs appears well-placed to have a good crack at breaking the market. While competition will be hard fought in a country with high penetration rates and a population of 28 million people, it is important to remember that the business case for an MVNO is very different from that of a mainstream operator. In Europe, there are believed to be about 500 active MVNOs, so there is no reason why all three of the virtual operators in Saudi Arabia should not survive, albeit with varying degrees of success.
And last but not least, there is another development that I should not neglect to mention. After about seven years as Editor of CommsMEA, I have decided that it’s time for a change. By the time you read this I will have moved within ITP Business to take on a new role, as editor of Digital Studio and group editor of the Digital Production division.
It’s been a pleasure to be part of the region’s telecoms sector for these past few years, during which time I have interviewed most operator CEOs (several times!), not to mention Virgin Group boss Richard Branson, and none other than Marty Cooper, who led the Motorola team that made the first mobile phone back in the early 1970s.
Given the cross over between the content production and broadcast sectors and telecoms, I’m sure I’ll see many of the friends, colleagues and acquaintances I’ve made in the sector.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who I’ve worked with and interviewed during my time on CommsMEA.