ICT spending in Saudi Arabia grew 4 percent year-on-year in 2009 to $25 billion. ICT spending is forecasted to grow at a three-year CAGR of eight percent to $32 billion by 2012. Close to 50% of the spending in this sector is in the consumer segment, followed by energy and utilities at an average of 12 percent. Public sector stands at nine percent and services is at seven percent.
The fixed line network, with a subscriber base of nearly 4.17 million and penetration level of 16 per cent, covers 69 per cent of households in the country. The Communications & Information Technology Commission (CITC) issued three new licenses in 2008 for the establishment and operation of public fixed telecom networks offering national and international services. The mobile subscriber base has expanded nearly seven-fold from five million in 2002 to 34.8 million in the first nine months of 2009, the majority of which (85 percent) are in the pre-paid segment. This represents a penetration level of 134 percent.
Total Internet users increased to nearly 10 million in the first nine months of 2009 with a broadband penetration level of eight percent. The upgrading of the telecommunications networks is likely to be a major driver of infrastructure spending.
Saudi Arabia is expected to need a significant amount of technology, software and hardware to create the new digital infrastructure that the government is hoping for.
Best prospects include:
• DSL access switches, enabling multi-service transmission equipment
• Fiber-optic satellite links
• Wideband transceivers
• Network protocol software and systems
• Broadband wireless access systems – “ WiMax”, with 2.5 and 3.5 GHz and two types, 16D and 16E.
Increased personal wealth in the past decade, coupled with increased IT awareness, has decreased cost of personal PCs and internet access has caused a surge in users across the Kingdom.
According to Markaz, the upgrading of the telecommunications networks is likely to be a major driver of infrastructure spending. Saudi Arabia is expected to account for more than 50 per cent of spending on ICT in the Gulf Cooperation Countries over the next three years. Of the nearly $90 billion expected to be spent on ICT infrastructure by 2012, $22 billion is likely to be spent on IT and $67 billion on telecommunications.