Virgin Mobile plans to launch Saudi MVNO by June

Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA) plans to launch mobile services in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2014, after the company reportedly said its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence was confirmed over the weekend by the industry regulator.

VMMEA is now in the process of recruiting staff ahead of its launch: "We have already progressed very far with our preparations for the launch in Saudi Arabia. We have received an enthusiastic welcome with more than 35,000 people providing us with their CV over the past six months to be considered for jobs in Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia" said Mikkel Vinter, CEO and founder of VMMEA, according to CommsMEA.

Saudi regulator the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) started the application process for three MVNO licences in early 2013, and said in June that VMMEA was one of the winners among the five consortia that applied, according to Reuters. The launch of MVNOs is expected to lead to a major shake-up of the Saudi Arabian mobile market.

VMMEA has signed an agreement with operator Saudi Telecom (STC) to use its network. Each of the kingdom's three operators--STC, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi--is expected to host an MVNO. Reuters noted that Mobily has teamed up with London's Lebara Group, and Zain Saudi with Gulf retailer Axiom.

VMMEA is partly owned by the Virgin Group founded by Sir Richard Branson. The Dubai-based group was established in 2006 and operates five MVNOs in the region: in South Africa, Oman, Jordan, Malaysia and currently an outsourced B-brand in Saudi Arabia. VMMEA's ambition is to launch 10 operations in total over the next five years.

The companies in Oman, Jordan and Malaysia are operated under the FRiENDi mobile brand name. According to CommsMEA, VMMEA claims to have 1 million customers across its five operations.

For more:
- see this CommsMEA article
- see this Reuters article

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