Riyadh: Mobile Telecommunication Co is considering introducing new services such as fibre-optic internet access in Saudi Arabia after winning an upgrade to its licence, a move that would bring the scope of its offerings nearer to larger Saudi Telecom Co. Saudi Arabia’s third-largest phone operator “has the most to gain” from a licensing change by the government because it was only able to provide mobile services before, said Andrew White, its chief strategy and business development officer.

The company, known as Zain Saudi, can start landline voice and data services after the government said it would upgrade telecommunications carriers’ licences. “We are currently studying exactly what it makes sense for us to do,” White said in an interview in Riyadh.

Zain Saudi is getting a so-called unified telecommunications licence and a 15-year extension to its permit after a high order by the kingdom last month. The government granted the same terms to other telecommunications companies, including Saudi Telecom and Etihad Etisalat Co. Previously only Saudi Telecom, majority owned by the government, had been able to provide a full array of services.

Fibre coverage

Shares of Zain Saudi, a unit of Kuwait’s Zain, have risen 8 per cent since the order was announced, compared with a 6.4 per cent gain by the Tadawul All Share Telecommunications Index.

The carrier is looking at how it can partner with “existing players” to offer fibre-optic internet access, White said. The company doesn’t see sense in spending billions of riyals on new infrastructure when the kingdom already has several networks in place, he said.

Zain Saudi may work with multiple partners, White said. The carrier recently announced an agreement with Saudi Electricity Co that could allow them to jointly use existing infrastructure such as the power company’s ducts into residential properties, he said.

“There’s a great opportunity for us to selectively identify areas where there is a sensible demographic, economic capacity and demand for fibre coverage, and where others haven’t rolled out yet,” White said.

Rivals including Etihad Etisalat, known as Mobily, will also benefit from the unified license.

“They will have the ability to provide fixed voice services which they weren’t able to provide previously,” White said. “We simply were not able to offer fixed services at all.”