STC launches LTE as data race heats up
Dubai, September 14, 2011
Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has launched next generation long-term evolution (LTE) network services in the kingdom, the former monopoly said in a statement on Wednesday, as the battle intensifies for data customers.
The move follows a similar announcement from rival Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) a day earlier, with both carriers claiming to be the first in the Middle East to roll out LTE, or 4G.
LTE promises download speeds more than double that of 3G and is designed for data, rather than voice.
Saudi's mobile penetration is 188 percent -- the third-highest in the world -- so mobile data and Internet are likely to be operators' main revenue drivers as subscriber growth stagnates, spurring the race to roll out LTE.
Between them, STC and Mobily account for more than 80 percent of Saudi's mobile subscribers, with indebted Zain Saudi a distant third.
Mobily claims three-quarters of the kingdom's mobile broadband subscribers -- data accounts for about 20 percent of its revenue -- and STC's LTE push is seen as trying to win more of this market share. - Reuters