Phones Ringing In Good Revenues

RIYADH, 26 March 2003 — Saudi Arabia’s telephone revenues are expected to soar following a 25 percent increase in international calls since the war on Iraq broke out. National calls increased by 20 percent.

A large number of expatriates and some Saudis have been calling their friends and relatives outside the Kingdom to assure them that they have not been affected by the war.

Many call cabin operators said here yesterday that the on-going war is the main cause of the steady increase in the number of calls, made mainly by expatriates. They predict a further increase.

Saudi Arabia is home to seven million expatriates.

Ahmad Al-Qutbi, an international call cabin attendant, told Arab News that the daily turnover of his business had jumped from SR2,000 to SR5,000.

Qutbi said Egypt and India topped the list of countries called from Saudi Arabia in the past week. Pakistan came second, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and some African countries. “Among GCC states, Bahrain was the country with the most callers from my cabin,” he said.

“Many of us have been visiting Internet cafes and using web phones to contact friends and relatives abroad to explain the situation in the region,” said an Indian worker at the Riyadh-based Dewan Internet Cafe.

However, he said some of his friends had been using their mobile phones for international calls as well.

An STC official said that the network and beacons in the northern part of the Kingdom, mainly located near Iraqi borders, were working properly and had not been affected by military telecommunication devices.

Saleh ibn Naser Al-Jaser, director of media affairs at STC, said his company was ready for any emergency.

Five million text messages were exchanged daily throughout the Kingdom last week, an STC report said. The messages mainly focused on war news, speculation on the situation in Iraq and other subjects related to the war, Arab countries and regional politics.

“I have already called Pakistan on my mobile four times since the war broke out,” said one Pakistani student.

Besides the growth in mobile international calls during the war, there have been reports of a steady growth in STC business during the last four years. Between 1999 and 2001, the number of international calls via cell phones grew by 305 percent. Saudi Telecom had until January this year a monopoly over telephone, mobile and Internet services in the Kingdom.

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