Rare Phonecards
Saudi Arabia early trials

audi Arabia occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, a hot desertic area lying between the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The Country came into existence in 1932, after the fightings for the conquest of the cities of Mecca and Medina, Islam's most holy sites, which are now jealously guarded. Saudi Arabia is largely uninhabited and it shares its borders with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen and Oman.
he beautiful pictorial cards manufactured by GPT and encoded in Saudi Arabia, are now well known by collectors. But probably not many know that Saudi Telecom began the trials of a card-operated telephone system as early as in 1984, with optical pay-phones and cards supplied by Landis & Gyr of Switzerland and installed at Dammam, on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. Two definitive cards with face values of 50 u and 100 u were issued, and, even if they had a printing of 33,000 and 21,000, they are now extremely rare, and unfortunately I haven't any picture of them to show here.

At left: GPT trial, 1,000 issued, 1992.
At right: first GPT card, 1992
n the following years, trials were discontinued, but they reprised in the beginning of the Nineties, when several other systems were tested and consequently other cards issued. Even if all of them had very low printings, some are better known than others: this is the case of the Alcatel cards, issued firstly in 1991 and reprinted in 1992, for a total amount of 2,200, and five different face values: A, B, 30, 50, and 100. The trial was unsuccessful, but someone assures that these cards had not at all been delivered to Saudi Arabia!
Alcatel trial, 1991/92, front and back of the same card, "A" value
ery few of the attractive cards produced in 1991 by Japanese Anritsu went into collectors' hands. Two different subjects had been issued, one featuring a mountain scene, the other one a view of a holy place (maybe the Mecca?), each one with a printing of just 100. I understand that Saudi Telecom refused this system because small holes are punched in the cards after each use to indicate the value remaining, and Telecom staff didn't like that a picture of a holy place would be so damaged in such way.
Anritsu: the two magnetic cards tested in 1991
uring the same year, also the chip cards system was tested, and it was Schlumberger from France which issued two sample cards, both plain white with black wordings, one to be used for the trial, the other one used by Telecom technicians. Both of them have a SC-4 chip loaded with 150 units and 100 each were printed.

Schlumberger, 1991. The Maintenance card was used by technicians.
he Gulf War saw installation of several telephones supplied by Mercury Telecommunications for use of British troops, but these were withdrawn after the cessation of hostilities.
Finally, in 1993, a magnetic system was installed when GPT were awarded a contract following their succesful trial, during which a number of evaluation and test card were issued. In July 1993, Saudi Telecom began to programme the cards themselves in Saudi Arabia and up to now several beautiful pictorial cards have been issued.
Two of the first GPT regular public issues, 1993/94. They are common cards.

Vote for All Cards!