and Lucent Technologies have jointly won an $600 million (SR2.25
billion) contract to add more than 1.1 million mobile telephone lines
to the Kingdom’s existing network.
The Swedish firm, Ericsson, got the
lion’s share of 60 percent of the contract ($360 million) while the
US company received the remaining 40 percent worth $240 million. At
present there are more than two million mobile phones in the Kingdom.
High-level sources at Saudi Telecom
Company (STC) told Arab News that the new expansion program would
include establishment of 600,000 mobile lines this year. The remaining
lines will be completed by the end of next year.
Finnish company, Nokia, and Motorola
of the United States were among the international companies vying for
the multimillion-dollar contract. Last week, STC awarded another
contract to establish 450,000 new fixed telephone lines.
Khaled Al-Melhem, executive president
of the company, said the project would be implemented in 18 months. He
did not say who won the contract and did not disclose the contract
Several international firms,
including Lucent, Germany’s Siemens and Canada’s SR Telecom were
among the bidders for the contract, which industry sources said was
worth SR1.2 billion ($320 million).
Last year, STC awarded Ericsson a
SR1.13 billion ($302 million) contract to add 1.1 million GSM
There are 2,505 towers and 19
exchanges on the Kingdom’s mobile network which covers 17 main roads
with a total length of 6,000 kilometers. Efforts are under way to
cover two more roads with a length of 1,200 km.
The rate of mobile phone growth in
the country is estimated at eight to 10 percent a month. The number of
mobile subscribers in Saudi Arabia crossed two million by the end of
May this year.
STC was set up in 1998 with a capital
of over SR12 billion ($3.2 billion) in a move to privatize the sector.
Its sales rose from SR9 billion ($2.4 billion) in the first year to
SR17 billion ($4.53 billion) last year.
The Saudi telecom giant is now
working with Ericsson to carry out one of the largest programs to
train Saudis on planning, designing and implementing telecom networks
and installing towers and exchanges.
The sources said the training
program, including theoretical explanation and practical training,
would boost STC’s Saudization drive. Some 280 Saudis have already
graduated from Ericsson’s training center in Riyadh as telecom
engineers, assistant engineers and technicians.