The telecoms operator generated SR3.03bn ($808m) of net profits in the first quarter, up from SR2.7bn in the first quarter of 2007.

The number of mobile phone customers reached 18.6 million at the end of March, about 23 per cent more than the firm had a year ago.

The results confirmed that Saudi Telecom is growing more slowly than the second operator Etihad Etisalat, which is run by giant UAE telecoms company Etisalat. Etihad Etisalat recently reported 11.1 million customers at the end of 2007, an 85 per cent growth in its number of customers (MEED 1:4:08).

The kingdom’s third mobile phone operator, Zain, a subsidiary of the Kuwaiti company of the same name, will launch its service by the end of June.