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Saudi Mobile Data Quality Provokes National Protest Against Bad Service

Riadh, the Saudi capital. Photo from Flickr user Abdallah.

Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Photo from Flickr user Abdallah.

An original version of this article, written by Mahmoud Ghazayel, was first published on the website of Social Media Exchange Association (SMEX).

On the evening of September 30, social media users in Saudi Arabia unleashed a campaign against the nation's wireless network operators, protesting bad service and the continued blocking of technologies, particularly VoIP communications, that are supposed to be available for free.

The campaign continues to gain support, and Internet users are calling for boycotts against the worst offenders in Saudi Arabia's telecommunications market. The first boycott was scheduled to last three hours, beginning on October 1 at 6 p.m. local time. Participants agreed to stop using their mobile networks (switching to Wi-Fi for any online activity), ceasing all text-messaging and declining to add any credit to their phones’ data packages. Protesters repeated this boycott for the rest of the week.

#We_will_cause_your_ bankruptcy
The campaign's date is 30th Dhu'l-Hijjah/1st October
From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. .. 3 hours
A week long. [Dhu'l-Hijjah is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar followed in Saudi Arabia]

Demonstrators argue that this three-hour boycott “should not be underestimated if it is repeated daily because the losses will be estimated at millions [of Saudi Riyals].”

Those participating in the online protest say they want to pressure Saudi Arabia's mobile network operators into offering services “worthy of a people bound for the 2030 Vision,” which is the economic road map initiated by the Kingdom's Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman.

When all its provisions are implemented, 2030 Vision is expected to contribute to liberating the Saudi economy from reliance on petroleum, thus increasing the government's non-petroleum income to 530 billion Riyal (141.3 billion dollars) in 2020, from 163.5 billion Riyal in 2015.

On Twitter, the campaign mainly used two hashtags: #We_will_cause_your_ bankruptcy and #flight_mode_stc.

#We_will_cause_your_ bankruptcy
No retreat! You can do it.

Owned by government agencies and public investors, the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is the country's leading mobile network operator. Two other major companies in this market are Mobily and Zain.

There are some signs that the Saudi government might be taking steps to improve telecommunications services in the country. On September 26, before the boycotts began, industry regulators notified Saudi mobile-data users that the sale of prepaid Internet “top-up” cards is being canceled, citing a plan to “rationalize the use of the network in a regulated form, thus alleviating strain on the networks to offer a better service, after operational indicators recorded usage rates surpassing international averages.”

The state's concern for mobile data is no surprise in Saudi Arabia, where Twitter adoption has reached a staggering 41 percent of all Internet users—surpassing both the United States and China, according to a Business Insider report released in 2013.

Support for the campaign against Saudi telecoms has been fierce on Twitter, as well, as the short video below shows:

Others want to go even further, vowing to force STC and other operators into bankruptcy:

#flight_mode_stc
It is us who took STC to the sky and we will also cause its fall
May god strengthen you!
Most importantly, compliance from all

I am very enthusiastic to boycott STC.
Today from 6 pm to 9 pm, switch off your mobile or put it on flight mode
I would exploit that time, to know my relatives better :)
#flight_mode_

For anyone who says what is the benefit if I switched off [my mobile] for 3 hours then reconnect or top up credit, you can read the explanation on the image and you'll get to know the utility #We_will_cause_you_ bankruptcy1 #flight_mode_stc [in the photo, campaigners claim that if 1 million participants joined the boycott campaign, STC would lose 302 Saudi Riyals per three hours]

#flight_mode_stc
#We_will_cause_you_ bankruptcy1
Guys, please implement these conditions so that we give them a great lesson and make them renounce their practices of deceiting and cheating on the citizen 👇👇 I swear by God, we'll never abandon our right.

#flight_mode_stc
Currently, STC company mode hahahahha [the speaker in the video says: “because of Twitter, we are not fine anymore”]

Saudi officials ban (wholly or partially) several online services that allow communication over the Internet, such as Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Skype. Last month, the state banned a call feature in the app “Line,” angering Saudi Twitter users, who in turn launched a campaign demanding access to such online technologies.

An original version of this article, written by Mahmoud Gahzayel, was first published on the website of Social Media Exchange Association (SMEX).

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