The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia saw spending on telecommunications and information technology services in 2017 reaching more than 146 billion Saudi riyals ($36 billion), according to the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC). The revenues from telecommunications services amounted to about 70 billion riyals in 2017.
The telecommunications and information technology services sector contributed around 6 percent to Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product (GDP) and 10 percent of its non-oil GDP, with significant investments from both the private and public sectors, said an Arabic statement by the Communications and Information Technology Commission sent to Reuters.
Social media website Facebook and online retail giant Amazon have both expressed interest in entering the Saudi market, as well as other international companies looking to invest in cloud computing, Abdul Asis-Ruwais, governor of the CITC said in the statement. The kingdom's $45 billion technology investment fund with Japan's SoftBank will also generate more revenue for the sector, exploring how robotics can be used to benefit society.
Saudi Arabia saw the number of internet users increase to about 26 million users in 2017, with a penetration rate of 82 percent, the statement said. This could be a result of the kingdom lifting a ban on Voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype in September last year. However, internet calling apps that do not confirm to the kingdom's regulations are still blocked.
Mobile broadband subscriptions in Saudi Arabia rose 25 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, to reach about 20 million subscribers, the statement by CITC added. Total mobile subscriptions decreased to 40 million subscribers, 75 percent of which are pre-paid, while mobile penetration rate reached around 127 percent.