Saudi telco regulator suspends Mobily prepaid sim sales

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Saudi Arabia’s No.2 telecom operator Etihad Etisalat Co (Mobily) has been suspended from selling pre-paid sim cards by the industry regulator, the firm said in a statement to the kingdom's bourse on Sunday.

Mobily’s sales of pre-paid, or pay-as-you-go, sim cards will remain halted until the company “fully meets the prepaid service provisioning requirements,” the telco said in the statement.

These requirements include a September order from regulator, Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC). This states all pre-paid sim users must enter a personal identification number when recharging their accounts and that this number must be the same as the one registered with their mobile operator when the sim card was bought, according to a statement on the CITC website.

This measure is designed to ensure customer account details are kept up to date, the CITC said.

Mobily said the financial impact of the CITC’s decision would be “insignificant”, claiming data, corporate and postpaid revenues would meet its main growth drivers.

The firm, which competes with Saudi Telecom Co (STC) and Zain Saudi, reported a 23 percent rise in third-quarter profit in October, beating forecasts.

Prepaid mobile subscriptions are typically more popular among middle and lower income groups, with telecom operators pushing customers to shift to monthly contracts that include a data allowance.

Customers on monthly, or postpaid, contracts are also less likely to switch provider, but the bulk of customers remain on pre-paid accounts.

Mobily shares were trading down 1.4 percent at 0820 GMT on the Saudi bourse.