Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications sector is growing at a remarkable rate. Facilities and services are constantly being expanded to accommodate the Kingdom’s growing market.
The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology oversees all modern communications technologies in the Kingdom.
The major provider in Saudi Arabia is the partially privatized Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), one of the largest telecom services operators in the world. A second company, Mobily, also provides mobile phone service.
The Kingdom’s landline telephone system is modern and efficient, using extensive microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable systems. In 2000, 2.9 million lines were available, and Saudi Telecom is expanding its network to 4 million lines. Seven standard earth stations link up with the Intelsat Satellite System.
Mobile phones are extremely popular in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, there were more than 5 million mobile phones in use in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s mobile telephones operate on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), one of the leading digital cellular systems used all over the world.
Internet usage is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia. More and more lines are being provisioned for Internet access to accommodate increasing demand, including high-speed service such as DSL. According to a 2003 Zogby poll, nearly two-thirds of Saudis have Internet access.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) supervises all operations of the Kingdom’s Internet sector. CITC also helps Saudi families own personal computers and access the Internet through the Saudi Home Computing Initiative.
Saudi Arabia also sends satellites into space. In 2006 alone, the Kingdom plans to launch six Saudi-built satellites for communication and observation. The King Fahd Satellite Communications City in Jeddah is the largest such complex in the Middle East. It is also the ground station for Arabsat, the leading communication satellite in the Arab world.
The second Arabsat satellite was launched on June 17, 1985 with the help of Saudi Payload Specialist Prince Sultan bin Salman – the first Arab and Muslim to travel to space – during his mission onboard the US space shuttle Discovery.