STC, Mobily hike data pack charges

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Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) have increased the prices of data packs by up to 50 percent.

Makkah Arabic newspaper said it noticed last week a halt in sales of data cards, especially for 600 and 300 gigabytes and analysts said it was in preparation for increasing the prices.

Makkah newspaper contacted the spokesman for the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to find out whether the price hike was authorized but he did not respond.

Ibrahim Al-Asheikh, chairman of the Communications and Information Technology Committee at Asharqia Chamber, said the new price hike had no legal support or precedent.

"It reflects the market monopoly led by the main telecom service provider with the support of other companies, and it shows they can increase the prices at any time they wished," Al-Asheikh told the newspaper.

He urged the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to intervene to protect consumers from the greedy telecom operators.

"We also urge the General Authority for Competition to take necessary steps to ensure fair competition in the market and confront the monopoly of a small group who increases prices to unreasonable levels for extending poor Internet services," Al-Asheikh said.

Nidal Al-Maseeri, a telecom market analyst, said telecom companies are interested only in realizing profits. They are not bothered about providing services to the public's satisfaction.

Referring to the fiber optic cable project and the plan to develop networks and towers, he said the project was moving slowly and did not cope with the Kingdom's ambitions.

"The network will remain weak if we bring thousands of customers under limited numbers of cabins and towers," he pointed out. He highlighted the educational importance of the Internet.

"Internet services are utilized not only for entertainment purposes and browsing websites. Some universities use the service in order to provide e-education. A weak network will have a negative impact on this educational process," he added.

Abdullah Al-Hamoud, another telecom expert, expressed his amazement over the CITC's inaction even after seeing the halt of data sales by the companies. "They halted the sales in preparation to hike the prices," he said.

Sulaiman Al-Amri, former chairman of the lawyers committee at Asharqia, said there are no justifications for the new price hike. "We should know that this happens at a time when companies in neighboring countries cut prices for Internet services," he explained.

Al-Amri said Saudi regulations do not allow monopoly that harms consumers.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Oudli, also a lawyer, said Saudi telecom companies were looking for an opportunity to hike prices and they used the introduction of VAT and the expat levy as an opportunity.

He stressed the need to confront this price hike in order to prevent similar hikes in the future. He also called for greater investment in the telecom sector to provide competitive services.

The STC charges SR100 for 10 gigabytes data package for a month, SR200 for 300 gigabytes for two months, SR500 for 300 gigabytes for three months and SR350 for unlimited service per month.

Mobily provides 5 gigabytes for three months charging SR90, 10 gigabytes for three months with WiFi device for SR545, 300 gigabytes for 3 months for SR450, 600 gigabytes for six months with WiFi device for SR775, and 20 gigabytes monthly for six months for SR530.

Zain offers a similar package. It charges SR45 for 2 gigabytes for a month, SR65 for 5 gigabytes for a month, SR119 for 10 gigabytes for 3 months, SR199 for 50 gigabytes for 3 months, SR299 for 200 giga bytesfor 3 months and SR325 for unlimited data a month.


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