Broadband/Network | Infrastructure | Innovation | Regulation | Smart Cities
February 24, 2020

How Saudi Arabia is opening access to ultra-fast broadband connections

Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target: to connect 3.5 million households to ultra-fast Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband networks by the end of 2020.

To enhance service offerings and increase customer take-up of fibre networks, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) championed an Open Access Initiative to allow all retail operators to offer their FTTH broadband services in every household covered in the Kingdom.

Yesterday, all Saudi fixed telecom operators signed mutual agreements to share their FTTH networks with each other.

Through this initiative, Saudi Arabia becomes one of the first countries in the world in which both the incumbent’s and all alternative operators’ active FTTH networks (operated by STC and Dawiyat, ITC and Mobily, respectively) are shared, allowing all broadband Service Providers (Go, ITC, Mobily, STC and Zain) to offer retail services to all customers covered by any of the FTTH networks.

How does the Open Access Initiative work?

The CITC’s initiative includes an innovative combination of characteristics, namely:

  • All operators, including not only the incumbent (STC) but also all alternative operators deploying FTTH networks (Dawiyat, ITC and Mobily), are opening their networks to all retailers.
  • The sharing agreements include the entire FTTH network deployed across the country.
  • Network sharing is based on an active bitstream layer 2 solution, based on the most modern technologies available and maximizing the flexibility of service providers to differentiate their offerings.

The CITC will continue working closely with telecoms operators to ensure the successful development of this initiative by monitoring the progress made in the coming months.

How did it come about?

After several workshops organized by the CITC with all relevant parties, His Excellency the Governor of the CITC, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, approved the Fibre Bitstream Rules and Guidelines in November 2019. These Rules and Guidelines define the main conditions that operators should follow when sharing their FTTH networks.

Since November 2019, CITC has been steering the discussions among operators to ensure they reach to agreements that are satisfactory to all parties, beneficial for the customers as well as compliant with the applicable regulatory framework.

The CITC has been instrumental in leading the complex technical, legal and commercial discussions required to materialize almost 20 bilateral agreements involving all operators and service providers.

Boosting ultrafast broadband in the Kingdom

The initiative is part of a wider set of activities to increase ultra-fast broadband connectivity in the Kingdom.

Over the past few years, the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has issued policies to foster the rollout of FTTH ultra-fast broadband networks — and in the context of the 2030 Vision’s National Transformation Program, the government has granted subsidies to telecommunication operators to roll-out fiber in uncovered areas.

The subsidies have been granted in a way to avoid networks overlapping. Even if such an approach is advantageous in investment efficiency terms, each customer previously could only choose among services offered by a single operator (i.e. the one rolling out the fibre), thus limiting the breadth of options available and ultimately hampering take-up.

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How Saudi Arabia is opening access to ultra-fast broadband connections

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