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| 13 March, 2018

Saudi witnesses huge drop in cellphone subscribers as expats leave

Big drop was due to a large number of expatriate workers leaving the country for good

Image used for illustrative purpose only. Men stand near BlackBerry phones on sale at a shopping mall in Riyadh.

Image used for illustrative purpose only. Men stand near BlackBerry phones on sale at a shopping mall in Riyadh.

REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed

MAKKAH — The number of mobile broadband subscriptions increased in the last quarter of 2017 compared to that same period the previous year while mobile phone subscriptions dropped drastically, the Makkah newspaper reported quoting statistics released by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC).

Haytham Abu Ayesha, former chairman of communications and information technology committee at the Sharqiya Chamber, said the big drop was due to a large number of expatriate workers leaving the country for good. He pointed out that expatriate workers constituted the largest percentage of cell phone subscribers in the country.

The increase in mobile broadband subscriptions can be attributed to the fact that many subscribers use the Internet to make voice and video calls through applications like WhatsApp. Another reason is the attractive offers and packages launched in the final quarter of 2017.

The fourth quarter report 2017 indicated that the total mobile phone subscriptions declined to 40 million, with prepaid subscriptions constituting 75 percent and mobile phone penetration ratio at 127 percent.

The mobile broadband subscriptions rose to 30 million or up by 25 percent over the previous year while the number of Internet users increased to 26 million. The total spending on communications and information technology services reached SR136 billion by the end of 2017 while revenue reached SR70 billion during the same period.

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The telecom sector contribution to the GDP increased by 6 percent due to the huge investments coming from the private and public sectors.

The number of fixed line services by the end of 2017 was 3.64 million lines, of which 1.9 million were residential and 1.74 million commercial. The fixed phone penetration in homes was 31.6 percent.

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