CITC is on track to invite prequalifications from interested companies for the second GSM licence before the end of the year following the appointment of the financial adviser. ‘A kick-off meeting is to be held between CITC and the adviser in mid-October and the licence is – as originally planned – to be awarded in the fourth quarter of 2004,’ says a government official.

The new operator is scheduled to start operations in January 2005. A third GSM licence could be introduced at a later stage.

As part of the latest VSAT licence awards, four companies – Saudi International Telecommunications & Electronic Company, High Capabilities Company, Nasser al-Harbi for Trading and a German-Saudi joint venture company, Detecon Al-Saudia – will install services across the kingdom. All the companies have teamed up with strategic international partners to implement the scheme, which will see operations begin within six months of the awards. Fifteen companies participated in the tender for the licences earlier this year. The four join Saudi Telecom as a VSAT service provider. VSATs are small earth stations for satellite digital transmission of speeds up to 56 Kb/s.

Europe’s LogicaCMG has also been awarded a contract to implement a next-generation messaging platform enabling advanced text messaging and payment capabilities for Saudi Telecom. Under the contract, LogicaCMG will provide an internet protocol (IP)-enabled messaging system, which will allow the kingdom’s incumbent operator to charge for all existing and next-generation data services including short messaging services (SMS) and multimedia messaging services (MMS) based on the pre-delivery service agent (PSA) billing solution. The new platform also enables Saudi Telecom to add advanced messaging services such as SMS voting and polling, and to ensure a smooth transition to next-generation services such as MMS.