Yasser Al-Abnawy
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on : Saturday, 27 Apr, 2013
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Saudi Mobile Operators End Free Global Roaming

Saudi telecommunication companies experience huge subscription cancellations in the wake of the Communications and Information Technology Commission’s decision
A worker talks on his phone near the King Abdullah Financial District, which is currently under construction, near King Fahad Road in the Asahafa area in Riyadh, April 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

A worker talks on his phone near the King Abdullah Financial District, which is currently under construction, near King Fahad Road in the Asahafa area in Riyadh, April 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)

Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Over the past two days, Saudi telecommunication companies have been hit by large numbers of subscription cancellations following the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission’s decision to halt free global roaming services.

This decision, which came into effect yesterday, means that subscribers will no longer be able to receive free calls, send or receive text messages, or use the internet, at domestic rates when roaming abroad.

However a well-informed source in the Saudi telecommunications industry told Asharq Al-Awsat that foreign nationals represent an estimated 80 percent of these cancellations. He also revealed that in one case, more than 500 mobile phone contracts was cancelled by a single individual, adding that this individual was not a Saudi national.

The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, attributed this relative absence of Saudi citizens cancelling their mobile phone contracts to the fact that they are exempted from this decision.

Asharq Al-Awsat previously reported that the Communications and Information Technology Commission was seeking to launch new paid roaming services for Saudi citizens outside of the country in a move to quickly end the controversy that has surrounded the decision to halt the free roaming services.

The Communications and Information Technology Commission had initially called on Saudi telecommunication companies to suspend their free global roaming service in March, threatening to take the “necessary procedures” against those companies that refuse to comply.

The Commission stressed that new paid global roaming packages and offers will be affordable for Saudi students living and studying abroad.

The decision to halt the service was taken after the Communications and Information Technology Commission claimed that individuals and businesses outside of Saudi Arabia were taking advantage of this service at the expense of local subscribers.

In a statement to its customers, the Saudi Telecom Company said: “Pursuant to the decision of the Communications and Information Technology Commission to stop the free call-receiving feature while roaming, we would like to inform our customers that starting Friday, April 26, the rate for receiving calls while roaming abroad can be found on our website. This decision is binding on all mobile phone operators in the Kingdom.”

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