Saudi Arabia’s telecoms regulator issued the licence a week and a half after Zain’s Saudi subsidiary floated 45 per cent of its equity on the Tadawul stock exchange.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry also issued approval for Zain to start offering commercial services.

Zain Saudi Arabia’s chief executive officer Marwan al-Ahmadi reiterated that the company would sign up its first customer by the end of June.

Etihad Etisalat, the second largest mobile operator in the kingdom, surprised analysts earlier this week when it revealed that it had sold 4 million more phones in 2007 than the market had expected (MEED 1:04:08).

Zain will launch into a market that grew at nearly 40 per cent in 2007, almost double what analysts had expected.