Saudi Arabia's ISPs - Price Comparison

Update: The per-minute access charges are now reduced to 3 SR per hour. That is a 33% reduction over the previous rate. Update: On May 14, Reuters reported (according to this ZDNet article) that prices will be reduced, perhaps by June 2000! Some providers have already cut the prices down (e.g. TriNet has cut its unlimited monthly subscription from 420 SR to 200 SR. However, note that this reduction is on the ISP monthly subscription, and not on the per-minute access charges, which are still high at 4.5 SR per hour!Price is never the sole factor in deciding for a product or a service. However, it is an important factor none the less. Regulatory bodies in Saudi Arabia have specified high and low water marks for prices ISPs can give service for. Since the information in the following table was gathered from various sources over a period of time, they may not be up to date. The ISP business in Saudi Arabia is regulated, as far as prices are concerned. There is a minimum and maximum set for the service, which is not to be exceeded by any ISP. For a full discussion on these limits, please review the Trade Port November 1998 and PC Magazine Middle East February 1999 articles. Please verify this with any ISP you intend to do business with by calling them. If you have a price that is different from what is mentioned below, please see the Corrections / Additions / Comments section. Remember that your total cost will not be what the ISP charges. You have to add to it what STC charges for access to 360- numbers. See further down for details. Another very important aspect to consider is that the internet is still evolving in Saudi Arabia. It has only been introduced during Ramadan 1419H (January 1999). Not all companies licensed are providing the service. Some may get overloaded as they take more customers than they can handle. Meanwhile, if you are in a hurry, then use the following guidelines: If you are looking for the cheapest unlimited access, consider these:

  • Arab Electronics - Offer unlimited access for a monthly fee of 150 SR. So far, this is the cheapest offer in the market.
  • OgerTel - Offer unlimited access for 190 SR per month. Feedback from users indicate they have good service as well. However, as of mid August 1999, they are not taking any new subscribers until more dial-in ports are made available by STC.
  • DigiNet - Offers 3 month subscription for 700 SR. This works out to 233 SR per month which is considered reasonable. They are taking customers at present (August 1999).
  • Electronic Concepts - Offers 3 month subscription for 700 SR. This works out to 233 SR per month which is considered reasonable. They are taking customers at present (August 1999). They also offer an option for one month access for 35 hours for 200 SR.

If you are looking for a high quality service and money is of no concern, then contact:

  • TRInet - They used to be relatively expensive (unlimited access for 420 SR per month, 1140 SR for 3 months), but lowered their prices recently (May 2000) to 200 SR per month for unlimited access. If you subscribe for 3 months or more, you get more discount as well. Users are very happy with the service, being extremely fast and reliable.
  • Prime Net - Doesn't offer unlimited access, but users are fairly satisfied with their service. They mainly target corporations.

If you travel a lot and want continuous access to your account while you travel, then consider:

  • SBM - allows access to the Internet via the IBM Global Network (ibm.net) network, having local access numbers in many countries worldwide. However, with AT&T recent purchase of IBM's Global Network, their is a question mark on whether this will continue in the future. Contact SBM for more information. Their prices are mid-range, and not quite expensive as other in the 400+ SR per month. They have not changed their pricing since the service was introduced in early 1999.
  • Global Roaming - Note that other Internet Service Providers started offering Global Roaming (e.g. Atheer). Please see my discussion below of Global Roaming for more details.

The Arabian Computer News magazine, in their January 2000 issue, p. 47, published the results of a survey that they conducted. Here is the relevant part:

A total of 240 people replied to the survey by a combination of posted and faxed-back forms. The most interesting set of results was the ISO categories. In both the corporate and individual user categories, several names were mentioned and the results were very close. @Net was chosen as the best ISP for corporates with Atheer and SBM very close on their heels. SBM scored well for quality of service, reflecting the ISP's view that it is better to serve fewer customers well than many customers badly. The Atheer/Batelco partnership has a similar focus on quality of service but was perhaps beaten due to being a relative new-comer to the ISP race. In the individual user category, Naseej carried off the crown. We believe this is due to the length of time it has been operating; prior to becoming an ISP it offered its own Saudi Arabian-only service.

Well, I cannot verify the results, nor confirm/deny them. You, the reader of this site, decide for yourself.   Make sure that you visit our Service Watch page, and visit the ISP Comparative Load there to determine if the ISP is over-subscribed or not. Originally, I planned to list all prices for all ISPs on this page. However, due to constantly changing prices, different schemes used by different ISPS, and lack of time on my part, I have decided to postpone that comparison until the market stabilizes somewhat.Always keep in mind that what you pay the ISP is not all what you pay. Due to the way dial-in modems are setup in the kingdom, you will be charged 0.05 SR per minute for accessing the internet (3 SR per hour). This is charged back to your phone bill, whenever you dial the 360-xxxx numbers. Note: STC used to charge 0.075 SR per minute, amounting to 4.5 SR per hour, but recently the prices were reduced to 0.05 SR per minute (3 SR per hour). STC plans to introduce ISDN for business and residential usage, some time in the future. This will allow 64Kbps access for subscribers. There are no pricing information on this as of yet, but in the United Arab Emirates, the local telco provider, ETISALAT is providing these lines at an affordable price (6 UAE Dirhams per hour). However, in July 1999, ETISALAT has lowered the price of Interent Access to "Dhs.3.00 per hour during normal hours, representing a 50% reduction for the previous rate of Dhs.6.00 per hour. Additionally, a cheap rate of Dhs.1.80 per hour for usage between 1:00 am and 6:00 am has also been introduced. So the comparison above may no longer be valid.

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