Internet was first introduced to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1994 when state academic, medical, and research institutions got access to it. Internet was officially made available in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the public access debuted in 1999. In December 2000 there were about 200 thousand Internet users in Saudi Arabia. By 2018 the number of Internet users had grown to 27 million,
Let’s get first familiar with some basic terms.
Data Service Provider (DSP):
Data Service Provider are companies or organizations that provide and operate Internet Infrastructure such as International gateways
Internet Service Provider (ISP):
Internet Service Provider are companies or entities, who purchase Internet bandwidth from the DSPs and provides Internet connections to the companies and individuals.
Physical networks (e.g. cables, Fiber Optics, Microwave Links …) that enables the transportation of information.
Backbone is a high-speed line that forms a major pathway within a network and connects other, smaller networks together.
Proxy is a server placed between a user’s machine and the Internet. It can act as a firewall to provide protection, as a cache area to speed up web page display and as a filter to prevent the user to access websites with inappropriate material.
Filtering system blocks the access to the websites that contain material that can be harmful or offensive to the Internet user.
Each device connected to the Internet has an address known as an Internet Protocol address (IP address). The IP address takes the form of four numbers separated by dots, for example: 220.127.116.11
A domain name is the text name corresponding to the numeric IP address of a computer on the Internet. A domain name must be unique. Internet users access the website usually by using the domain name. A domain name can be for instance: company.com.sa.
Domain Name System (DNS):
Domain name system maintains the relationship between IP addresses and domain names.
The Communications and Information technology Commission (CITC) is the authority responsible for regulating ICT sector in the Kingdom. Its mission is to ensure the provision of high quality universal telecommunications services at affordable prices. The Internet in KSA is regulated and supervised by CITC.
King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. KACST is a government research center that used to regulate and supervise the Internet in KSA before 2006, when CITC started handling this responsibility.
Internet Services Unit (ISU):
ISU is a department at KACST which used to be in charge of the Internet Service in Saudi Arabia and currently provides internet service to academic and research sectors.
Original structure of Saudi Arabian Internet.
The Internet in KSA is in the middle of a major restructuring. In order to understand what these changes could mean for the growth of Internet usage in Saudi Arabia, lets first give a quick look to the old structure.
When Internet was first made available for the public in KSA at the end of 1990’s, it was supervised by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Internet Service Unit (ISU) a department of KACST.
ISU acted as a Saudi Internet exchange point and worked in raising the public awareness with the Internet. It also formulated the rules and regulations that govern the use of the Internet in the country and took care of the Saudi domain name system.
The Internet was provided to the public through many number of commercial ISPs who were licensed by KACST.
Gateways to International Internet
KACST provided the gateway to the International Internet for ISPs as well as all the Saudi universities and governmental research centers.
Infrastructure of physical network (National Internet)
The STC provided the communication infrastructure in the country.
The Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network formed the Internet backbone in Saudi Arabia. ATM network covers most of the country and was used to connect the ISPs with KACST and with their dialup and ADSL clients.
The DDN (Digital Data Network) was used for connect ISPs with their leased-lines customers; it was also used by some organization to connect their different branches.
PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) was used for dialup and ADSL customers.
All the modems were owned buy STC and could be accessed by dialing a special number that start with 360xxxx. Each ISP has his own 360xxxx which works from any place in the country without the need to use any area code.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
ISPs bought the International Internet bandwidth service from KACST and local bandwidth from STC and sold the Internet access to their users.
ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) for Saudi Arabia (.sa). The “.sa” is divided into several sub domains: “.com.sa”, “.org.sa”, “.net.sa”, “.gov.sa”, etc. The registration for domain names under “.sa” is free of charge, but there are certain requirements that the registrant should meet.
In KSA the Internet is filtered. That means that the users can’t access websites that contain material that can be harmful or offensive to an Internet user.
The new structure of Saudi Arabian Internet .
Communications and Internet Technology Commission (CITC) took over the supervision of Saudi Arabian Internet from KACST in 2006. In addition to that from 2006 forwards all licensed data service providers (DSPs) are providing the commercial gateways to the Internet.
Gateways to the international Internet
From 2006 forward the gateways to the International Internet are provided by all licensed commercial DSPs, The ISPs can choose from which DSP they buy their International Internet bandwidth. KACST keeps on providing International gateway to Saudi universities and governmental research centers.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
ISPs can now buy their International Internet bandwidth from one of the licensed DSPs. They still may need to buy the local bandwidth from STC or other DSP. The competition between the three DSPs enables more affordable Internet access to the users.
CITC is in charge of managing the ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain) for Saudi Arabia (.sa). The sub domain system as well as the registration procedure for domain names under “.sa” are the same as discussed before.
One of the biggest changes in the structure of Internet in KSA is the change of the filtering system. From 2006 on filtering functions are handled CITC and took place at the servers of the all DSPs. The DSPs gets the list of filtered addresses from CITC.