x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Etisalat Arabia network busiest on the planet

Almost a quarter of the broadband internet connections in the Kingdom are now made through the Mobily network.

Aggressive pricing has helped Etisalat's Saudi Arabian mobile broadband network to become the busiest mobile data network on the planet, its chief executive said Monday. Almost a quarter of the broadband internet connections in the kingdom are now made through the Mobily network, Khalid al Kaf said, speaking at the Mecom telecommunications conference in Abu Dhabi. More than 45,000 new mobile broadband subscribers were added every month in the first four months of this year and users now consume almost 33,000 gigabytes of data every day through the service. "I think mobile broadband will thrive. It will grow so quickly that it will do to DSL [landline internet connections] what mobile did to fixed [voice phone] lines," Mr al Kaf said. "Both of them will co-exist, but the usage behaviours will change. The customer will behave differently with mobile broadband, and I think it will overtake DSL in a short time." On Sunday, Etisalat in the UAE announced a dramatic reduction in its pricing for mobile broadband, offering data downloads up to 25 times cheaper than before. The company's UAE network has roughly half the subscribers that Mobily has in Saudi Arabia, but just one fifth of the number of mobile broadband subscribers. Mobily offers an unlimited mobile internet package for 350 Saudi riyals (Dh342), a 25 per cent discount on Etisalat's Dh460 a month package. A Mobily account limited to five gigabytes of downloads is 33 per cent cheaper than the same offering from Etisalat in the UAE. Khalifa al Shamsi, Etisalat UAE's vice president for consumer marketing, said the price cuts were aimed at boosting usage of mobile broadband in the country, where Etisalat estimates there are 2 million internet-enabled phones, but just 100,000 mobile data subscribers. Etisalat's only domestic competitor, du, has yet to make a major push into the mobile broadband market. The chief executive of du, Osman Sultan, has said broadband would be the story of the company in the near future, and he expected to make a major announcement about the service before the end of the year. In 2005, Mobily broke the telecoms monopoly held by Saudi Telecom and has since captured more than 40 per cent of the kingdom's mobile market. Last year, a third operator owned by Zain of Kuwait entered the arena. The investment bank Morgan Stanley said in a recent report that it expected Mobily to outperform its competitors in the Saudi market, thanks largely to its focus on the growing mobile data market. "Mobily has already moved from a volume to value strategy," the report said, adding that of the 12 per cent share of total market revenues it expected Zain to capture by the end of 2012, more than four fifths would come from Saudi Telecom. tgara@thenational.ae