Zain is set to launch its network in the kingdom later this year, making it the third mobile operator.

Zain has previously said it hopes to take 33 per cent of the market in the long-term. However, EFG-Hermes, which is one of the largest brokers in the region, expects Zain’s Saudi Arabia operation to build a market share of just 15 per cent by 2015.

“We expect Saudi Telecom to still have the highest market share at 50 per cent followed by Mobily [a subsidiary of the UAE’s Etisalat] at 35 per cent and Zain Saudi Arabia at 15 per cent,” says Marise Ananian, analyst at EFG-Hermes.

Mobily’s market share grew rapidly in 2007. It signed up 5 million customers during the year, increasing its share of the market to 39 per cent from 29 per cent .

Saudi Telecom’s market share fell to 61 per cent from 71 per cent, even though it managed to increase its customer numbers from 14 million to 17 million.

Zain Saudi Arabia is expected to launch its mobile services before the end of September this year. It had previously said it would launch before the end of June (MEED 22:2:08).