The firm, which holds the second mobile phone licence in Saudi Arabia and markets its services under the Mobily brand, will report that it has “several million” fewer customers because it has been forced by the telecoms regulator to change the way it counts them (MEED 18:4:08).

Humoud al-Ghobaini, a spokesman for Etihad Etisalat, says the company’s customer numbers will “definitely” be smaller as the Communications & Information Technology Commission has requested that Etisalat and its rival Saudi Telecom only count customers who have spent money on phone calls or text messages in the previous three months.

Up until the change in the regulations, Etihad Etisalat had counted every customer since it launched its commercial services in the kingdom in May 2005.

Khaled al-Kaf, chief executive officer at Etihad Etisalat, surprised analysts earlier this year when he claimed that the company had 11.1 million customers at the end of 2007. Research firm Wireless Intelligence had forecast just over 7 million customers for the firm.

Saudi Telecom’s customer numbers are likely to be unchanged because it only counted active customers. The former mobile phone monopoly had 17 million customers at the end of 2007. It will also report its latest figures in July.