Marwan al-Ahmadi, chief executive officer of the Saudi operation, has previously said that mobile services would launch before the end of June. However, Zain will only launch a large-scale test of the network at the end of June, rather than a full launch of mobile phone services as originally planned (MEED 22:06:08).

When Zain does launch, its network will cover 53 per cent of the country. People in the remaining 47 per cent of the country will be able to use Zain’s services via the network of rival operator Etihad Etisalat, the local subsidiary of UAE telecoms giant Etisalat.

Zain has delayed its launch to allow more time to test the quality of services for customers.

“Networks are very delicate,” says a Zain spokesman. “At the end of June, we are looking to test the network for a month. The company will give free lines to people before the official launch.”

More than 10,000 people will be given free phones to test the network and provide feedback. The six local businesses that own 25 per cent of Zain Saudi Arabia are likely to receive the majority of the free lines, says the spokesman.

Zain itself owns 25 per cent of Zain Saudi Arabia. The remaining 50 per cent is held by private shareholders including government investment funds.

Al-Ahmadi has set a target market share of 33 per cent, although he has not set a date for when this should be achieved.