By Shane McGinley
Telecom provider signs deal with Saudi Airlines to allow mobile and internet on 70 flights.
Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) subscribers will be one of the first mobile phone users in the region to be able to use their phones onboard planes, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest mobile telecoms provider announced.
Saudi Airlines earlier announced that it had signed a deal with On-Air and Mobily has been appointed to provide mobile and internet connectivity on Saudi Airlines' 70 A330 aircraft.
"We are happy to be one of the first providers in the region to be part of the On-Air deal," said Engineer Abdulaziz Altamami, Mobily's chief operation officer.
However, the usage does come with some restrictions as phones can only be used after the airliners reach appropriate altitudes, and the aircraft’s crew has full control of the system, including the authority to switch off communications and call reception at certain times, such as night flights when most passengers are asleep.
Last month, Mobily said it plans to spend more than SR2.5bn ($670m) this year in an effort to capture market share and expand.
“We put on the ground two to three billion riyals annually” over the last five years, CEO Khalid Al Kaf said in an interview. Capital expenditure as a percentage of “revenue will be the same as what we did the previous year. In an absolute value, it will be a little bit higher.”
Mobily’s capital expenditure in the past five years was about SR12.6bn, according to the company.
The telecommunications provider, 27 percent owned by Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecom, is not looking for any new financing this year or planning any acquisitions “at the moment,” Al Kaf said. “Mobily is well structured as a telecoms service provider.”