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SAUDI ARABIA

  • Article 11 of the Telecommunications Act (June 2001) - issued under Royal Decree No. M/12 - defines the radio spectrum as a state-owned natural resource. Article 37 says that anyone providing a telecommunication service must obtain a license from the Communications and IT Commission (CITC). "Use of any frequency without a license from the Commission" is a violation of law (Article 37.6).
  • Similarly, Article 79.1 of the Telecommunication Bylaw (July 2002) says: "No person shall install, operate, or possess radio equipment or use a radio frequency except under and in accordance with a radio license." However, Article 79.3 says "The Commission may issue a decision from time to time deeming specific types of radio frequency uses to be licensed pursuant to the Act and this Chapter." That means CITC can "deem" a use to be licensed - "licensing by rule" in ITU jargon.
  • طلب مرئيات العموم حول المقترح النهائي للخطة الوطنية للطيف الترددي (in Arabic} Final Proposal of the National Frequency Plan of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (in English), 9 September 2006 (public consultation period ended 4 November 2006). From our perspective the most important aspect of this plan is that it introduces license exempt bands: any band annotated with "Footnote 06" is license exempt for equipment conforming to CITC rules, namely 26.675 - 27.5 MHz, 2.4 - 2.4835 GHz, 5.15 - 5.35 GHz and 5.47 - 5.83 GHz. In addition, Footnote 1 says Short-Range Devices (SRDs) can use the following bands "subject to special CITC standards":

    9 - 148.5 kHz
    3155 - 3400 kHz
    6765 - 6795 kHz
    7400 - 8800 kHz
    13.553 - 13.567 MHz
    26.957 - 27.283 MHz
    29.7 - 47 MHz
    48.76 - 49.990 MHz
    57.41 - 76 MHz
    72 - 73 MHz
    173.965 - 216 MHz
    433.05 - 434.79 MHz
    470 - 872 MHz
    863 - 870 MHz
    1785 - 1800 MHz
    1880 - 1900 MHz
    2400 - 2483.5 MHz
    5150 - 5350 MHz
    5470 - 5875 MHz
    9200 - 9500 MHz
    10.5 - 10.6 GHz
    13.4 - 14.0 GHz
    24.0 - 24.25 GHz
    63 - 64 GHz
    76 - 77 GHz
    122 - 123 GHz
    244 - 246 GHz

    Footnote 5 allocates the following bands for ISM applications:

    Bands requiring special authorization by CITC Bands not requiring special authorization by CITC
    6.765 - 6.795 MHz
    433.05 - 434.79 MHz
    61 - 61.5 GHz
    122 - 123 GHz
    244 - 246 GHz
    13.553 - 13.567 MHz
    26.957 - 27.283 MHz
    40.66 - 40.70 MHz
    2.400 - 2.500 GHz
    5.725 - 5.875 GHz
    24 - 24.25 GHz

  • طلب مرئيات العموم حول اعداد الخطة الوطنية للطيف الترددي في المملكة العربية السعودية (in Arabic) Radio spectrum issues related to the development of the National Frequency Plan (in English), Public Consultation Document No 5/1426, Communications and IT Commission, 30 January 2006. "License exempt applications" are discussed in Section 10: "License exempt spectrum is currently not specifically allowed in the Kingdom. The CITC acknowledges the importance of the concept and wants to encourage growth of new applications. The CITC may adopt the licensing exempt approach..." Meanwhile, Section 9.5 of the consultation document said RFID devices are authorized to use 125 kHz, 13.56 MHz, or 800-960 MHz - without indicating if they needed licenses. Section 9.6 indicated that Saudi Arabia had not yet created allocations for "Industrial, Scientific and Medical" devices. Section 9.3 dealt "RLAN (WLAN or Wi-Fi)" strongly suggesting that such networks for self-use in the 2.400 to 2.4835 GHz band were license exempt. But it was less clear if 5 GHz RLANs may also be license exempt. If this seems to contradict the statement that "License exempt spectrum is currently not specifically allowed" it could be that some applications were considered license exempt, rather than the frequencies - or that license requirements for certain applications were simply not enforced.
  • "Wireless Local Area Networks Regulation," in English and Arabic. See also the "WLAN Usage Regulations" in English and Arabic. Only indoor use is permitted and all users must be identified in records kept for at least 6 months. Mean EIRP not to exceed 100 mW in the 2.400-2.4835 GHz band, 200 mW in the 5.150-5.350 or 5.725-5.825 GHz bands.
  • Technical Specification RI045 - Requirement for 2.4 GHz Wide Band Data Transmission systems and ancillary equipment (3 November 2006)
  • Technical Specification RI055 - Non-Specific SRD (3 November 2006)
  • Technical Specification RI054 - Radio Frequency Identification (3 November 2006)
  • See "Tech Specs for Telecom and IT Equipment" for additional specifications
  • "Makkah 'Smart City' Project to Start next Year," by Habib Shaikh, Khaleej Times, 23 January 2009: "The implementation of infrastructure projects to develop Makkah into a smart city would start next year, according to delegates who attended the conference on intelligent cities at Umm Al Qura University. They said on Wednesday that several national and international companies have expressed their readiness to make Makkah an intelligent city, and added that the new electronic applications would serve the millions of pilgrims who visit the Holy City every year. The conference was organised by the Makkah municipality in association with the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Haj Research Centre. The new intelligent city applications will include those for issuing electronic visas, electronic transport systems, medical services, interactive crowd management, smart security systems, interactive geographical information systems, and providing smart Haj cards... The use of RFID system in collecting information about pilgrims was also debated... The delegates proposed the formation of a working group under the chairmanship of Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal to implement a strategic plan for the development of Makkah, applying modern systems. The committee will identify smart city applications and make proposals on how to finance them... Ahmed Yamani, chief technology officer at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, (SAGIA) said the government has allocated $20 billion from the gross domestic product to build smart cities since 2006..."
  • "Saudi Mobily launches free WiFi service for pilgrims," Middle East/North Africa Financial Network, 21 November 2009: "Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has launched its free WiFi service at the holy sites in Makkah to enable pilgrims' access the Internet... For the second consecutive year, Mobily, through its data arm Bayanat Al-Oula, allows anyone with a laptop, PC and even WiFi-enabled mobile phone to connect to the Internet without charge. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, governor of Makkah and chairman of the Central Haj Committee, was briefed on the service during his inspection tour of the holy sites... Mobily's CEO Khalid Al-Kaf said: 'The free WiFi service covers all the holy sites including Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. All that needs to be done is to search for the Mobily network..."
  • شروط ومعايير استخدام تقنية البلوتوث (CITC's Bluetooth regulations, in Arabic). These seem not to be available yet in English...
  • "Bluetooth Nation," by Khaled Al-Sulaiman, Middle East/North Africa Financial Network News, 7 February 2006: "...The zeitgeist characteristics of the technology has come and passed in many parts of the globe, but not with Saudis. They love their Bluetooth. They only turn off their devices when they switch off their other sensory radars: at bedtime... This continuous obsession with Bluetooth is confusing. It's not just a youthful fad. It has extended to the elderly as well. The Bluetooth wireless connection is considered an essential medium for easy acquaintance, digital harassment and other less seemly audiovisual exchanges..."
  • "Teenagers Sinking Their Teeth Into New Technology" by Ghada Aboud, Arab News, 10 February 2005: this article claims "bluejacking" is a big fad among Saudi teens.
  • "In Saudi Arabia, a high-tech way to flirt," Associated Press, 11 August 2005: "Unrelated men and women caught talking to each other, driving in the same car or sharing a meal risk being detained by the religious police. But connecting by Bluetooth is safe and easy. Users activate the Bluetooth function in their phone and then press the search button to see who else has the feature on within a 30-foot range. They get a list of ID names of anyone in the area - names, mostly in Arabic, often chosen to allure... Users then click on a name to communicate with that person... There is little the government can do to control Bluetooth use. Last year, it banned camera-equipped phones but backed off because cameras have become a feature in most phones..."
  • "Saudi Religious Police Embrace Bluetooth Technology," by Turki Al-Saheil, Asharq Al-Awsat, 17 September 2007, in English: "The head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice inaugurated the test launch of what it called the 'Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth' at one of the Riyadh's large shopping centers. The service, aims to send a number of awareness messages to youths... from both genders. Since the introduction of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in 2004, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made several attempts to curb what it considers 'the negative and immoral utilization of Bluetooth technology in violation of the Islamic Shariaa.' However, these attempts have failed... Dr Abdullah al-Shithri, head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice... said, 'We are not against Bluetooth technology. Rather, we are against the misuse of any kind of technology.' Although still in its testing stage, the 'Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth' according to Al-Shithri will be utilized in all of Riyadh's shopping centers and family parks. Al-Shithri would not elaborate on the exact number of Bluetooth crimes that have been detected by his commission's fieldworkers, but did say that that 'these crimes are in the hundreds.' A study conducted in the Al-Qasim region (northeast of Riyadh) reveals that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has intercepted 500 Bluetooth messages. The study adds that 90 percent of these messages were sexual in nature... In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr Abdullah al-Shithri emphasized the 'inadmissibility of examining cell phones belonging to the users of this technology without a solid reason. Cell phone users have the right to privacy.' al-Shithri told Asharq Al-Awsat, 'Nobody, not even the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, has the right to examine any cell phone without a reason.'
  • "Liberalization of the Telecommunication Sector in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" powerpoint presentation by Ayedh Mohammed Al Qahtani at the ITU/BDT Arab Regional Workshop on "Sector Reform & Liberalization" (Cairo, Egypt, 9-11 March 2004).
  • "Saudi issues first private FM radio licence," AME Info, 31 January 2010: "...Saudi alliance Alf Alf has been declared the winner of the first of five private FM radio licences in the kingdom, Arab News has reported. According to the licence, the alliance has to cover 30 areas, 15 of which are mandatory. Saudi Specialized Publishing Co, Rotana Audio Visual Co, and Arab Radio and Television Network (ART) are among ten more short-listed firms competing for the four remaining licences. Culture and information minister, Abdul Aziz Khoja said the licences will be issued in the coming eight weeks."
  • According to "Hypermedia and Governance in Saudi Arabia," by Marwan M. Kraidy, First Monday (September 2006), "There is an official ban on satellite dishes which is not enforced, and few people even remember it is on the books."
  • "Riyadh leads WiFi way," by Matthew Wade, ITP Technology, 7 February 2007: "Riyadh looks set to become the first free 'smart city' in Saudi Arabia - and indeed the wider Middle East - according to officials speaking at the city's first free-for-all WiFi hot spot launch yesterday... According to Smart Cities Forum's organisers, the establishment of such smart cities in the Kingdom will in turn help the government improve its economic and security related performance. The Governor of Saudi Telecommunications and IT, Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, added that other major Saudi cities, such as Jeddah and Madinah, should also become smart cities, since both are now what he called 'logistically ready' for such a move..."
  • "Saudi Arabian ISP Awalnet is... offering its customers hotspot Wifi internet in cafes, major hotels and airports." ---ITP Technology, 16 January 2006.
  • "Permission for Private Radio Soon: Madani" by F. K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News, 12 March 2007: "Saudi Arabia will soon allow the private sector to invest in the information sector, especially in radio stations. The Ministry of Culture and Information has completed a study on the project... 'The ministry will set out a regulatory framework for private participation,' [Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani] explained. The ministry has received several applications for opening new radio stations. 'We will review these applications after the system of granting licenses, now under way, has been completed,' he said..."

Middle East - Regional Overview