Saudi Arabia

Basics

Edit

These are the mobile GSM providers in Saudi Arabia:

  • STC (Jawwy)
  • Mobily
  • Zain

Since 2014 different MVNOs started in Saudia Arabia too. The most accessible to foreigners are Virgin Mobile, Friendi and Lebara mobile.

Frequencies Edit

For all 3 providers:

  • 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz up to EDGE
  • 3G is on 2100 MHz with all providers and additionally on 900 MHz on Zain only up to HSPA+
  • 4G/LTE in on 1800 MHz (B3) with all providers. Additionally there is TD-LTE on 2300 MHz (B40) on STC, TD-LTE on 2600 MHz (B38) with Mobily and FD-LTE on 2100 MHz (B1) on Zain.

Coverage and speeds Edit

Coverage is quite good in populated areas and along highways, but can be down to non-existent in remote places. STC is said to have the best coverage and speed, followed by Mobily and Zain in 3rd place.

Regulations Edit

To buy a SIM card in a store, you have to show a photo ID (and your visa) in a store of the operators. In a tightening of laws you are expected to give your fingerprints too from 2015. Note, that in public places you will be offered SIM cards by street vendors that are registered on someone’s name. This should only be used as a last resort, as this is illegal and these cards can easily be switched off when detected.

In 2017 limits on the ownership of prepaid SIM cards in the country have been imposed by the regulator. Foreign residents (who make up more than 1/3 of the population) are now reportedly limited to two prepaid SIM cards across all provides, while Saudis are restricted to as many as ten prepaid SIM cards. This is considered a temporary procedure to correct and remedy the large number of illegal SIM cards in the market.

Censorship Edit

Saudi Arabian internet is filtered through a content filter. Sites that are considered offensive by the authorities are blacked out. But most social media or messenging through Twitter or WhatsApp are not restricted.

VoIP ban partly lifted Edit

In September 2017 the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) announced the lifting of the ban on all applications that provide voice and video call services over the internet, including FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype, Line, Telegram and Tango. The apps need to meet imposed regulatory requirements, including the removal of content that violates the Kingdom’s regulations. WhatsApp and Viber seem to be excluded and VoIP or video calls through these two apps remain blocked.

STC (Jawwy)Edit

STC for Saudi Telecom Company, mostly owned by the state, is market leader in Saudi Arabia with the best coverage and speed throughout the country: mobile coverage. It started with LTE in 2010 and covers around 90% of population by 2015, which is only concentrated in a few towns on 1800 MHz (band 3) and 2300 MHz in TD-LTE (band 30).

Availability Edit

STC calls their prepaid plan “SAWA” and is available at any of their stores or any mobile phone shop. (Store locator) for SR30 with SR25 credit.

Data feature packs Edit

Data by default is SR2 per MB. These packages can be activated on the SAWA prepaid card:

To activate a package, text code to 902. These packages will auto-renew. To stop send 2009, to check balance send 2220.

Data-only SIM Edit

Their data-only SIM for tablets and modems is called “QUICKnet” SIM. They are on 4G/LTE too. To activate 4G/LTE text 4466 to 902. These starter packs are sold:

  • 100 SR: 15 GB for 1 month
  • 200 SR: 100 GB for 2 months
  • 300 SR: 300 GB for 3 months

These recharge cards can be added to all three starters:

  • 100 SR: 20 GB for 1 month, activation: 2702
  • 200 SR: 120 GB for 2 months, activation: 2703
  • 300 SR: 350 GB for 3 months, activation: 2706

To activate text code to 900. When all data has been consumed, the service will continue with 32 Kbps speed until the end of package validity. Normal speed will resume when renewing the package.

More information Edit

  • APN: jawalnet.com.sa
  • STC Website in English

Jawwy (from STC) Edit

STC has launched “Jawwy from STC” in 2016 with a new customer care model and new plans. A special Jawwy SIM is necessary to use the service, but customers will be able to keep their current numbers.

Jawwy app Edit

Everything is centered around the Jawwy app that allows to build, share and manage the plan in real time, instead of buying packages. The app offers a simple way for customers to activate services without calling customer support or visiting a store. Their app is available in both iOS and Android versions and in English too.

Availability Edit

You need to buy their SIM card first online to be delivered to Saudi-Arabia or offline in a special Click & Collect store (locator) and download their app. These starter packs are available:

  • 30 SR with 25 SR credit = minimum base plan with 500 MB and 50 mins for 1 month
  • 60 SR with 10 GB, 100 domestic minutes and 10 SR credit for 1 month
  • 180 SR with 40 GB, 400 domestic minutes valid for 3 months

For recharging you can now use regular Sawa recharge vouchers from STC.

Data options Edit

Open the Jawwy app or your personal account online to customize your monthly recurring base plan of data and minutes by choosing from the following options for data (open to 4G/LTE). First you need to choose a base plan. The minimum is a monthly plan with 500 MB and 50 mins for 15 SR to which data can be added like this:

  • per GB up to 20 GB: 10 SR per GB
  • per domestic min up to 2000 mins: 0.20 SR/min
  • 1 GB roaming data: 100 SR
  • 30 GB YouTube data: 50 SR or for free if plan is 100 SR+
  • 90 GB (max 3 GB per day) STC WiFi access for free as long as you have any plan

You can up- and downsize the data plans anytime by app. For upsize, you will be charged the price difference.

More informationEdit

  • APN: jawalnet.com.sa
  • Jawwy From STC Website in English

MobilyEdit

Mobily, partly owned by Etisalat, is the 2nd provider in Saudi-Arabia. It still gives good coverage and speeds in populated areas. 4G/LTE is in city centers only: coverage check on 1800 in FD-LTE and 2600 MHz in TD-LTE.

Availability Edit

They have different prepaid cards for SR 30 with SR 25 credit without data in their stores: (store-locator).

Mobily has announced that prepaid SIM validity will now be based on activity rather than recharges only. This will apply to both new and existing subscribers. Prepaid customers should now use their package at least once within 90 days to sustain the SIM validity, whether for voice calls, SMS, internet, roaming or credit top-up. This gives greater flexibility to customers and avoid loss of their lines if not recharged.

Data feature packages Edit

Default data is SR 0.15/MB. You can add a Connect 4G Data Add-on package:

To subscribe, text code to 1100, to unsubscribe, text ‘UnSub <Code>’ to 1100. You can refill ahead of time by texting ‘Renew …..’ to 1100.

  • SR 25: 1 GB for 1 month
  • SR 45: 2 GB for 1 month
  • SR 65: 5 GB for 1 month
  • SR 120: 10 GB for 3 months

You can recharge by sending an SMS to 1100 include the following: <CustomerID><VoucherNumber>. Check data balance by *1411#

Data-only SIM Edit

For data only in routers, modems and tablets, Mobiliy sells SIMs called “Connect” which are on 4G/LTE too. These can be filled by these packages:

  • 500 MB for 1 month: SR 20
  • 2 GB for 1 month: SR 55
  • 5 GB for 3 months: SR 90
  • 10 GB per month for 3 months: SR 270
  • 20 GB per month for 6 months: SR 630
  • 60 GB per month for 3 months SR 275, for 6 months SR 500, for 12 months SR 975

You can also add the vouchers mentioned above.

Roaming offer Edit

Mobily offers cheap roaming rates to about 80 countries worldwide:

  • 1 GB for 3 days: SR 99, activation: Trip1
  • 3 GB for 7 days: SR 199, activation: Trip2
  • 10 GB for 30 days: SR 349, activation: Trip3
  • 20 GB for 30 days: SR 499, activation: Trip4
  • 30 GB for 90 days: SR 799, activation: Trip5

For activation, text subcription code to 1100 or enter *1100# and choose package.

More info Edit

  • APN for prepaid: web2
  • website: http://www.mobily.com.sa

ZainEdit

Zain is the 3rd and smallest of the three mobile operators in Saudi-Arabia. Neverthess, it has still fair coverage in the populated areas in up to 4G/LTE, but can be very patchy elsewhere: make a coverage check. 4G is on 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz, all on FD-LTE, partly with three-band aggregation like in Jeddah. Zain offers the lowest rates in the Kingdom right now.

Availability Edit

Their prepaid plans are available at their stores: Store locator. They don’t come with data. The only exception is the Shabab Prepaid starter that involves a combo plan.

Data feature packages Edit

Default data is 0.15 SAR per MB. You can add these plans on all of their prepaid SIMs, open to 4G/LTE:

Activation is by texting the code to 959. To check data balance, text ‘BC’ to 959. All packages auto-renew.

Data-only SIM Edit

As data-only SIM called SPEED 4G, Zain sells these internet plans as starter packs:

Purchase is online through your personal profile.

Roaming offers Edit

They offer very cheap roaming rates in the UAE on Etisalat for data:

  • 2 days of unlimited data: 129 SAR, activation: UAE2 to 959
  • 7 days of unlimited data: 349 SAR, activation: UAE7 to 959

Furthermore, they offer data roaming bundles to about 80 countries worldwide (list):

  • 2 GB for 3 days: 99 SAR, activation: RD2 to 959
  • 4 GB for 7 days: 199 SAR, activation: RD4 to 959
  • 10 GB for 30 days: 299 SAR, activation: RD10 to 959

To check bundle balance, text RBC to 959.

More infoEdit

  • APN: zain
  • Website (in English): https://www.sa.zain.com

Friendi mobile Edit

Friendi mobile, managed by the Virgin Mobile group, is the first MVNO in the kingdom. It started in October 2014 on the network of Zain in 2G and 3G (for coverage see above). It is mostly directed to expatriates.

Availability Edit

The prepaid SIM starter pack is sold for SR 25 with SR 20 credit valid for 21 days, in their stores all over the country: store finder. It comes as a standard prepaid card or can be changed to a Data SIM by dialling *113#.

Data feature packages Edit

On the standard voice & data SIM default rate is 0.15 RS per MB. You can book these packages:

Activation, data check and stop of auto-renew is by typing *108# <call>

Data-only SIM Edit

On the data-only SIM card, these monthly packages can be added:

  • 2 GB: RS 50
  • 3 GB: RS 70
  • 5 GB: RS 110

Activation, data check and stop of auto-renew is by typing *109# <call>

More info Edit

  • APN: internet
  • Website in English: http://www.friendimobile.com

Virgin mobile Edit

In 2014 Virgin Mobile started its own brand in Saudi Arabia. It operates as a MVNO on the network of Zain in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (for coverage and frequencies see above). It’s directed to the urban youth.

Availability Edit

The prepaid SIM starter pack is sold for SR 30 with SR 25 credit in their store: store finder. The starter pack comes with three SIM cards: one for voice and two for data. Start-up credit is vaild for 21 days.

Data feature packages Edit

Default data rate is 0.55 SAR per MB going down to 0.10 SAR/MB after you have used more than 30 SAR. You can add these packages:

Activation is by typing *110#.

More info Edit

  • APN: internet
  • Website in English: http://virginmobile.sa

Lebara mobile Edit

In 2014, Lebara mobile, the leading ethno provider from the UK, started its first non-European MVNO in Saudi Arabia. It operates on the network of Mobily in 2G and 3G (see coverage above) and targets mainly migrant workers.

Availability Edit

The prepaid SIM starter pack ard recharge vouchers are sold in their stores: store finder.

Data feature packages Edit

Default data rate is 0.15 SAR per MB. You can add these monthly packages called Mobile Net Savers:

You can buy as many Mobile Net Savers as you like as often as you like. Mobile Net Savers don’t auto-renew on the expiry date or on exhaustion of the data allowance.

More info Edit

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