Saudi Telecom to spend $1.1bn on broadband

Saudi Telecom is to invest over four billion riyals in new broadband services this year, and drive coverage in the Kingdom into remoter areas.

Saudi Telecom Co., the largest Arab telecom firm by market value, will invest 4 billion riyals ($1.1 billion) this year in broadband services, newspapers said on Monday, citing the company's chief executive.

The firm, battling competition in its mobile phone business, expects to sign up 500,000 Internet subscribers in 2007, the papers, including al-Riyadh, quoted Saud al-Duweish as saying.

Saudi Telecom also plans to use the funds to expand the broadband network into remote areas, Duweish said, according to the papers.

Company spokesman Qusai al-Fawaz could not be reached to confirm the report.

Chairman Mohamed al-Jasser said in April the company aimed to raise the number of Internet customers from 300,000 at the end of the first quarter to 1 million by year-end.

Saudi Telecom made its smallest quarterly profit in more than two years in the three months to March 31 as competition on mobile phone services with Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) eroded the former monopoly operator's margins.

Mobily began selling wireless Internet connections in May at lower tariffs than Saudi Telecom's proposed high-speed Internet charges.

Saudi Telecom is set to lose its fixed-line monopoly this year.

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