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Fri 27 Feb 2009 12:00 AM

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Atheeb’s KSA WiMAX network “weeks” from launch

Riyadh and Jeddah first cities to be covered by broadband network

Saudi Arabia’s Atheeb Telecom is “weeks” away from launching its mobile broadband network in the Kingdom, according to the company’s CEO.

Atheeb Telecom is one of three companies licensed to operate a new fixed-line network in Saudi Arabia, and it plans to be the first to offer a nationwide WiMAX network.

Dr Ahmed Sindi said that he expects corporate registration of Atheeb Telecom to be issued “in the next week or so”, with a stock exchange listing “in a month’s time” and a launch of the service to follow soon after.

“Our launch is very much on target. It will launch very soon - we’re talking weeks. Our network is about 95% ready in Jeddah and Riyadh,” Sindi told CommsMEA.

“We have five more cities to follow maybe a month to a month and a half after that, including Mecca, Medina and Ta’if, and once the five cities are covered we will have close to 65% of the population covered. Very soon we will announce the second phase of the project, and that will give us up to 85% coverage, which will be implemented this year.”

Although the economic crisis has prompted some operators to scale back high cost capital expenditure projects, Sindi said that it has not affected plans for Atheeb’s network.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the Gulf countries that have been hardly touched by the economic crisis,” he said. “I know that banks are not as easy with credit as before, however, we already have our required funding in full in place.”

According to Sindi, the network is capable of delivering speeds of up to 8Mbps, but he said that Atheeb will advertise speeds of 1-2Mbps to avoid encouraging “unrealistic expectations”.

“We will not make the mistake of 3G providers who advertise 7.2 Mbps and then you get dial-up speed, because they assume only one person is connected to the base station.

“It was a problem for customers in Saudi Arabia, where some of the operators were advertising unrealistic speeds. And as a result, the reaction of the public was very negative. We have learned from that mistake.”

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