The annual pilgrimage to Mecca (known in Arabic as the Hajj), which takes place this year from 13 October to 18 October and is expected to attract more than 8 million Muslims from around the world to the Saudi city, is receiving a significant response from mobile operators, not only in Saudi Arabia but elsewhere in the Middle East region.
Zain Jordan has announced special roaming bundles tailored for postpaid and prepaid customers who are in Mecca for the Hajj rituals. The new offer provides integrated voice and internet services to Hajj roamers at JOD 2 (US $2.81) per day. Customers are entitled to unlimited roaming internet access and 10 minutes per day of voice calls within Saudi Arabia or to contacts in Jordan. Additional voice calls and SMS and MMS texts will be charged at local rates. Subscribers will also receive calls and SMS for free from all Zain networks.
In addition, UAE operator Etisalat is offering a data roaming and incoming-calls package for Hajj pilgrims that provides data usage up to 1GB and 1,000 incoming voice minutes while roaming in Saudi Arabia on the Mobily, STC and Zain networks. The package will be free from 11 October to 18 October.
And Saudi operator STC has provided Wi-Fi coverage in Mecca, serving more than 400 locations. STC Wi-Fi internet service enables this year’s pilgrims to browse the internet free of charge.
These MNOs recognize that the pilgrimage to Mecca is probably the most massive telecom roaming event in the world, with eight million people converging on one city, most of them from outside the country. Going on pilgrimage, in the 21st century, does not entail giving up instant communications and internet access. Selling roaming bundles, whether for voice and texts or data or both, is a very lucrative, not-to-be-missed opportunity for foreign providers like Zain and Etisalat that have many subscribers who make the Hajj. As for STC, while it may not be making money directly by providing free Wi-Fi coverage in Mecca, it is undoubtedly building goodwill among Saudis, which may well result in new customers post-Hajj.