Thanks to sweeping digital transformation enablement efforts, the Kingdom’s ICT market is now the largest and fastest growing in MENA, with a total market size of SAR154 billion in 2022.
To build upon this remarkable growth in the digital economy, local and global leaders in the telecommunications and technology sector met in Riyadh on March 8 to attend the 9th annual ICT Indicators Forum.
Hosted by the Communications, Space & Technology Commission (CST) in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and IT (MCIT) and International Data Corporation (IDC), a market intelligence firm, the forum investigated key topics related to digital regulation, opportunities to scale in the digital economy, and future trends.
In addition to showcasing how local ICT firms are using AI and other digital solutions, dialogue sessions were held under three themes: ICT Sector Financial Performance, Scaling Digital Business to support the Digital Aspirations of Saudi Arabia, and Leadership in Enhancing the Efficiency of Digital Infrastructure.
The Saudi Internet Report 2022 was also published during the forum, revealing remarkable progress across digital infrastructure and internet usage on the back of successful government and private sector cooperation.
In addition to revealing that Saudi Arabia still has one of the world’s top ten fastest mobile download speeds, the report shows that average per capita consumption of mobile internet data now exceeds 1200 megabytes/day, three times the global rate.
Digital progress spurred by participatory approach
Saudi Arabia has also benefitted from a cooperative regulatory environment that supports entrepreneurs and innovators by creating a flexible environment that balances innovation and regulation, said CST Deputy Governor Eng. Omar Al-Rejraje.
“Since then, eleven companies have been registered to accelerate the launch of innovative business models, solutions, and services,” he reiterated. Al-Rejraje also reported significant gains in the Kingdom’s efforts to stimulate investment in the connected vehicle services market, with 12 companies serving 26 brands granted approval last year.
This comes on the back of the launch of a number of government advisory groups that support private players in the telecommunications and technology sector and enhance communication between the public and private sectors.
As part of its inclusive approach, CST is also enabling new generation technologies such as non-terrestrial networks (NTN). The first of its kind in the world, in November 2022 CST held an auction across the 2100 MHz band frequencies, allowing the provision of mobile satellite services (MSS), internet on airplane (A2G), and internet of things via satellite (MSS-IoT).
Release of Saudi Internet Report
The release of CST’s latest Saudi Internet Report was another key moment at the forum - click here to download the report. As it shows, total capital investment in digital infrastructure over the last six years exceed SAR93 billion through the end of 2022, leading to a significant improvement in the quality of digital services on offer.
For example, high-speed internet is now available in 21,000 villages across the Kingdom as a result of the extension of the local roaming service initiative, which ensures continual service to more than 5 million residents.
The Kingdom’s 5G coverage rate has also reached 53%, more than double the global average, with Riyadh becoming a leading global capital in 5G coverage with over 94%.
The delivery of high-speed fixed internet networks to the residential sector has also doubled, bringing the number of homes covered by fiber-optic cables to 3.7 million.
“This expansion in the readiness and robustness of the digital infrastructure, in addition to the allocation of frequency spectrum for communication services, has led to a significant increase in the quality of services provided,” Al-Rejraje told delegates.
This has been achieved by multiplying the speeds of mobile and fixed internet several times. At 181 Mbps, the speed of mobile Internet is now twice the global average, positioning the Kingdom among the top 10 countries for mobile internet speeds.
The report also shows that mobile subscriptions have reached 172% of the population, 36 percentage points above the global average, while average per capita consumption of mobile Internet data exceeds 1200 megabytes/day, three times the global rate.
Notable ICT and telecoms market growth
During the forum, Al-Rejraje added that the ICT and telecoms market experienced a “remarkable repositioning” in 2022, with an increase in the number of wholesale companies and a rise in acquisitions and mergers of digital infrastructure.
“The total value of these operations in 2022 exceeded 4.3 billion riyals, three times more than the annual average in the previous four years,” he commented. . “The transactions were concentrated in the ownership of communication towers and the optical fiber network.
The CST expects this trend to reduce costs across the market, improve competitiveness, facilitate the entry of new companies, and encourage the development of new innovative solutions.
“In 2022, the competitiveness index of fixed communications in Saudi Arabia posted its most impressive performance since the privatization of the telecommunications sector, with an improvement of 10% in just one year,” noted Al-Rejraje.
The report also found that every telecommunications company listed in the financial market achieved operating profits and net profits for the first time since 2009.
“When we reflect on the evolution of the Kingdom’s digital infrastructure and digital regulatory environment, we are presented with one of the region’s, and indeed the world’s, most prominent success stories,” Al-Rejraje said.
For more info on CST: https://www.cst.gov.sa/en/aboutus/Pages/default.aspx