What is the limit of a maximum number of SIM cards for Expats and Saudis?

Saudi Telecom Co. (Jawwy), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Mobile Telecommunications Co. (Zain) is the mobile GSM providers in Saudi Arabia.  Since 2014, many other mobile virtual network operators have started in Saudi Arabia. The most reachable to foreigners are Virgin Mobile, Friends, and Lebara Mobile. Coverage is very good in occupied areas and highways but can be absent in remote places. Saudi Telecom Co. is said to have the best coverage and speed. After that comes Mobily and Zain in 3rd place. To buy a SIM card from a store, you have to show a photo ID (your visa) to the shopkeeper and from 2015 onwards, you are expected to provide fingerprints too. In public places, many vendors offer SIM cards on the street that are recorded in someone’s name. This is illegal and can be switched off easily when identified.[irp]

Since the beginning of the current year, there is a maximum limit on the possession of prepaid SIM cards. This restriction is for all citizens and foreigners living in the Saudi Kingdom. The aim is to avoid the use of cards to carry out aggressive attacks in the kingdom, as said by the controller in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. According to the two people who were engaged in this matter said, more than a third of the population in Saudi Arabia is foreigners. Now they are restricted to have two prepaid SIM cards across all networks.

This restriction is applied to both SIM cards; voice and data lines in the country but majority population depends on data SIMs for the internet. Somebody told that Saudi locals are restricted to register to as many as 10 prepaid SIM cards. Currently, users who are having more than the prescribed limit of active SIM cards will be given the notice to transfer the SIM to someone else before canceling their connection.

There are many illegal SIM cards issued and misused by terrorists in their operations and to carry out harmful acts in the country. The controller of Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications, Communication and Information Technology Commission stated that this restriction is for a temporary period because it is a method which will help in detecting a large number of illegal SIM cards in the market. Head of research at Riyadh Capital, Mohammad Faisal Potrik said that after this step, telecom shares might take a strike.

Shares of some companies dropped like Etihad Etisalat known as Mobily dropped 0.7% and Mobile Telecommunications Co. known as Zain dropped 0.5% in the market while Saudi Telecom Co, the kingdom’s biggest network shares saw some gains in the market.  On Sunday, first quarter report of Etihad Etisalat known as Mobily shows a loss of 163 million Riyals. Last year, the same quarter report showed a profit of 20 million Riyals.[irp]

The Company quoted the reasons for the loss in a statement that there is a pressure on sales and the disconnection of illegal customer connections which has no fingerprint data which was implemented by the government last year. Last year, the government made compulsory for the companies to take fingerprints of customers because it will help in verifying SIM cards to confirmed identities. This year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expecting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to increase 0.4% as compared in 2016; it was 1.4% because oil production cuts and strict measures effect on businesses and consumers.

Source: Gulf News

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