Jeddah, Jan 20: The Kingdom’s information superhighway will be speeding up in major cities this year as Saudi Telecom announced plans to introduce a fast fiber-optic network.
How fast is fast?
Current dial-up services have speeds nearing 256 kilobytes (256,000 bits of data) per second. The new fiber-optic network will offer up to 30 megabyte (30 million bits of data) per second.
Aiming at a network of four million users by the year’s end, many businesses, educational facilities and home users will get the chance to jump to the next generation of connectivity. Initially, the fiber-optic network will only be available in certain districts of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
“We have already started providing bandwidths ranging between 8-10 megabytes per second,” Saudi Telecom Vice President Saad Dhafer Al-Qahtani told Arab News. “Within a few months we intend to provide bandwidths up to 30 megabytes per second.”
He said the fiber-optic network heralds a big change. “The Internet bandwidth available in the Kingdom is the highest in the region,” Al-Qahtani said. “I am sure that the spread of high-speed Internet will promote distance education in the Kingdom.”
Computer experts agree.
“Increased bandwidth will create a new world of communication for the common man in terms of videoconferencing, Internet use and television watching,” said Jamal Muhiyuddin, database administrator at the General Authority of Civil Aviation. “It will also improve communication between people in general and expatriates in particular. It will provide a cheaper spectrum of communication.”
“The spread of Internet service and increase in the number of its users are signs of economic progress,” said Cisco Systems Manager Dr. Badr ibn Hamoud Al-Badr. “High-speed Internet will facilitate videoconferencing and home entertainment.”
“The new STC project supports government moves to enhance electronic services,” said Abdul Jabbar ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Abdul Jabbar, CEO of Arabian Advanced Systems (Naseej). “Previous bandwidths were very slow and expensive. The new one will help clients receive higher quality service at better prices — and it will help more Saudi women to work from home.”
Video clips or photos that used to take minutes to download now will pop up in seconds. Most Internet operations will become much faster.
“At present, very simple forms of data exchange are taking place due to a lack of space and small bandwidth. With the advent of the new technology applications, it will be more interactive with more graphic and video content,” Muhiyuddin said. “People working in the IT field will see much more interactive computer applications.”
Alwaye said he hoped pricing of the new service would be competitive and affordable to everybody. “The more affordable the price, the more innovative applications in use.”