The telecommunications industry in Saudi Arabia is highly developed and has undergone rapid growth in recent years. Today, there are three main Saudi Arabia mobile operators that provide cellular and mobile internet services – STC, Mobily and Zain. In addition, several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) provide services using the networks of the main operators.

Choosing the right Saudi Arabia mobile operators can be confusing given the many offerings. This guide provides a detailed overview of all Saudi Arabia mobile operators, their services, coverage and more to help you pick the operator that best meets your needs.

Saudi Arabia mobile operator featured image

I. List of Mobile Operators in Saudi Arabia

The telecom market in Saudi Arabia is dominated by three major mobile network operators:

1. Main Mobile Operators in Saudi Arabia

Main Saudi Arabia mobile operators

STC:

  • Largest operator with over 25M subscribers
  • Offers mobile, fixed, broadband and enterprise services
  • Uses 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, 5G
  • STC and Jawwy mobile brands

Mobily:

  • Second largest with 16.3M subscribers
  • Mobile, fixed and enterprise services
  • 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, 5G networks
  • Reaches 98% of population

Zain:

  • Third major player with 8.4M subscribers
  • Mobile voice and data on 2G-5G
  • Also serves enterprises and government
  • Covers 95% of population

2. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in Saudi Arabia

In addition to the three major mobile network operators, there are a few MVNOs that provide mobile services in Saudi Arabia:

  • Virgin Mobile – Launched in 2017 using Mobily’s network
  • Lebara – International MVNO available in Saudi Arabia since 2018 using Mobily
  • Friendi – Local MVNO launched in 2019 over STC’s network

These MVNOs lease network capacity from the main telecom operators to provide niche mobile services, usually at lower costs. However, their networks are not as extensive as the main operators.

II. How to Choose the Best Saudi Arabia Mobile Operators

Mobily

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a Saudi Arabia mobile operators:

  • Coverage – The reach of an operator’s network where you live, work and travel is most important. STC has the widest coverage followed by Mobily and Zain.
  • Speeds – The operator offering the fastest and most reliable mobile data speeds in your usage areas. All networks now have 4G/LTE with expanding 5G rollout.
  • Plans & Pricing – Compare the plan costs and inclusions like data allowance, calls, texts etc. MVNOs like Virgin Mobile offer lower prices.
  • Customer Service – Quality of customer support channels and satisfaction ratings. STC generally ranks higher.
  • Roaming – International roaming options, partnerships and costs for traveling abroad.
  • Value Added Services – Unique offerings like digital content, cloud storage etc. provided.
  • Device Deals – Sales and discounts on the latest smartphones and devices.

Analyzing these key parameters in line with your usage needs will ensure you pick the best operator. Don’t just go by advertisements – do your research.

III. Best Mobile Operators in Saudi Arabia – Detailed Comparison

Here is an in-depth feature-by-feature comparison of the major Saudi Arabia mobile operators:

Operator Network coverage Data Speeds Plans and pricing Customer service International Roaming Value-added service
STC

Coverage 99% of population.
60K+ 2G sites, 62K+ 3G sites, 86K+ LTE sites.
Launched 5G in 2019.

Fastest 4G speeds at median of 50Mbps. Expanding 5G network. Prepaid from SAR 30, postpaid from SAR 125. Extensive customer support channels. Highest satisfaction ratings. Roaming in 172 countries unthrottled data speeds. STC Pay for mobile payments and offers.
Mobily

Coverage 98% of population.
56K+ LTE sites, 6.7K+ 5G sites.

Respectable 4G speeds at 30Mbps. Rolling out 5G. Prepaid from SAR 30, postpaid from SAR 100. Good nationwide customer service network. Roaming in 178 countries but throttled data speeds. Mobily Apps for content streaming and storage.
Zain KSA

Coverage 95% of population.
13K+ LTE sites.
Expanding 5G.

Average 4G speed of 24Mbps, up to 90Mbps peak. Plans from SAR 50-150 for prepaid and postpaid. Reasonable but less developed than STC and Mobily. Roaming in 132 countries with lower speeds and rates. Zain Life for digital content and lifestyle services.
MVNOs Limited to main operators’ networks. Depends on host network. Most affordable plans under SAR 100. Basic support from host networks. Depends on host network. Basic or none.

STC offers the most extensive network coverage at 99% of the country. With the widest networks, speediest data and most convenient services, STC ensures tourists remain optimally connected while visiting Saudi Arabia. Get connected seamlessly everywhere in Saudi Arabia with saudiarabiaesim.com. Order your Saidi eSIM now and experience the fastest network like a local. No roaming charges – you save!

IV. Where to Buy SIM Cards from Saudi Arabia Mobile Operators?

Where to Buy SIM Card from Saudi Arabia Mobile Operators

Here are some tips on where and how to easily purchase SIM cards from the major Saudi Arabia mobile operators:

  • STC – Buy prepaid and postpaid SIMs from STC stores, STC-authorized resellers, supermarkets like Tamimi, Panda, Danube, etc. Register via smartphone apps.
  • Mobily – Get Mobily SIM cards from their stores, sales agents, retail partners like Extra, Carrefour, Jarir, and Axiom stores. Online registration available.
  • Zain – Find Zain SIMs at their outlets, points of sale in malls, hypermarkets like Lulu, online on websites like Amazon Saudi, Noon etc. Web registration required.
  • MVNOs – Virgin Mobile and Friendi SIMs can be purchased online via their websites or apps. Lebara SIMs available through local resellers.

When buying in-person, carry your local ID like Iqama for registration. Online purchases may require ID scans during registration. Both prepaid and postpaid connections are available.

V. Do Saudi Arabia Mobile Operators Offer eSIM?

Yes, the major Saudi Arabia mobile operators and a few MVNOs in Saudi Arabia now offer eSIM (embedded SIM) facilities alongside regular physical SIM cards.

STC launched eSIM services in January 2021 for postpaid subscribers with compatible smartphones like iPhone XS and above. The eSIM profile gets downloaded and activated digitally.

Mobily also introduced eSIM support in 2021 for iPhone 13 series initially. It has expanded eSIM activation for more device models and postpaid users.

Zain Saudi Arabia activated eSIM functionality in 2022. eSIM is currently supported for iPhone 14, iPhone 13 and Samsung S22 series phones on Zain postpaid plans.

Among MVNOs, Friendi powered by STC supports eSIM activation. Virgin Mobile Saudi does not currently offer eSIM services.

So most Saudi Arabia mobile operators now allow activating postpaid plans via eSIM for convenience and avoiding SIM swaps when changing devices. But availability is limited to newer smartphone models for now.

VI. FAQs

1. Which mobile operator has the best coverage in Saudi Arabia?

STC has the most extensive network covering over 99% of the population across Saudi Arabia.

2. Which operator provides the fastest data speeds and 5G service?

STC offers the fastest 4G LTE and 5G networks with average speeds of around 50Mbps based on user tests.

3. Which telco offers the cheapest mobile plans?

Smaller MVNOs like Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia offer the most affordable plans starting under SAR 100 per month.

4. Where can I buy a Zain Saudi Arabia SIM card?

Zain SIMs are available at their stores, sales outlets in malls, hypermarkets like Lulu and online on Amazon Saudi and Noon.

5. Does Mobily offer eSIM activation service?

Yes, Mobily launched eSIM support in 2021 which is available for iPhone 13 series and newer models on postpaid plans.

VII. Conclusion

Saudi Arabia boasts a highly advanced and competitive mobile market with the big 3 operators – STC, Mobily and Zain – at the forefront. STC emerges as the best overall operator based on its unparalleled coverage, fast speeds, quality customer service and value-added offerings. Mobily and Zain also provide excellent network connectivity and services across the Kingdom.

Conducting thorough research based on your specific usage needs will help identify the most suitable Saudi Arabia mobile operators. Referring to this guide can give you a detailed overview of the major players in the market.