By Vijaya George
To encourage the broader use of Internet in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Arabia.com and Saudi ISP Atheer have teamed up to offer users in the country prepaid Internet access cards.
To encourage the broader use of Internet in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Arabia.com and Saudi ISP Atheer have teamed up to offer users in the country prepaid Internet access cards. 70 Saudi riyal prepaid cards are now available in over 2,000 outlets across the Kingdom. “Through our web site we have witnessed the immense popularity of the Internet in Saudi Arabia,” commented Ramzi Zeine, CEO of arabia.com. “We have a regular audience of around one million from within the Kingdom and we are now making it even easier for them to gain access to the web site via our new prepaid Internet cards. Moreover, by providing ISP access, we are also demonstrating that we are thinking about our customers on a much broader scale than just the content of our website,” he added. Prepaid Internet access cards are gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia as post-paid accounts are not available in the country. Users currently have to commit themselves to annual subscriptions or use their credit cards to guarantee the subscription. This system has prevented many people from subscribing for Internet access and Saudi Arabia currently has only 1.6 million Internet users. However, the concept of a pre-paid card to access the Internet is slated to increase the number of users. With the card, a user can dial the number indicated on the back of the card and log on to the service using the user-id and password that appear after scratching the silver area on the back of the card.Rashid A.H. Al-Snan, executive director of Batelco Jeraisy Ltd, who operates Atheer stated that the ISP saw this as the first initiative of its kind in the region. “We recognise that Internet usage in Saudi Arabia is increasing rapidly and we are keen to support that growth,” he added. The prepaid card comes bundled with a free CD containing software including arabia.com’s bi-lingual instant messenger service Mersal, which is interoperable with Yahoo and ICQ.