Uzbekistan mobile operator Ucell is offering a promotion for its customers who will be using roaming services in Saudi Arabia during Hajj (19–24 August 2018), over the Zain network. The promotion includes any incoming calls, plus outgoing calls to Uzbekistan and within Saudi Arabia, for UZS 3,500 (US $0.45) per minute. Calls to other states cost UZS 15,000 (US $1.92) per minute, and one text message costs UZS 350 (US $0.04). The promotion remains valid until 26 December.
The Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, is the largest annual gathering of people in the world. So to say that it represents a unique, though time-limited, revenue opportunity for mobile operators is an understatement. Uzbekistan is more than 93 percent Muslim, and Ucell has a large mobile client base, many of whom will likely be traveling to Saudi Arabia for the religious event. The roaming package appears to be designed as a sort of temporary MVNO, running over the network of Saudi operator Zain.
The prices for the service, which is voice-oriented and therefore intended for basic needs, are quite low and therefore should be attractive to any Uzbeks staying in Saudi Arabia. With the roaming offer, ahead of the Hajj, Ucell may well be able to attract new subscribers who join for the specific reason of benefiting from the roaming promotion. By keeping it in place until the end of the year, Ucell may not actually end up serving many customers, because most will return home right after the Hajj, but some may stay longer, and even for those who do not, extending the offer presents an appearance of generosity and therefore is good marketing for the operator in terms of public image.