Exclusive Interviews

In an effort to support it’s exponential growth, Tamer Group, a leading healthcare, beauty care, prestige products, and fast moving consumer goods company, based in Saudi Arabia, has recently partnered with InfiNet Wireless to ensure seamless connectivity and high bandwidth across several new facilities in Jeddah. The InfiNet solution has allowed Tamer Group to deploy and support several business-critical applications with far less management and maintenance, all at a significantly lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Explaining the reasons for deciding to upgrade their wireless network infrastructure and work with InfiNet, Mr. Mohannad Al Jammal, Head of IT Operations & Network Infrastructure at Tamer Group said, “One of the big challenges we faced was the topography and the distance between our head office and the remote branches; many of the locations are about 30-40 km apart. So deploying a wireless network that was reliable and stable in these harsh conditions was at the top of our priority list. In parallel, we needed to ensure that the new wireless network could provide high bandwidth that would not only support the existing business needs but also be future-proofed for demand over the next few years. Given our unique requirements, InfiNet was the only viable solution on the market.”

Working with United Horizons, InfiNet’s partner in Saudi Arabia, Tamer Group deployed InfiNet’s InfiLINK 2x2 5GHz PRO & LITE family of products across all 20 locations in Jeddah. For the critical connection between their data center and head office, Tamer Group deployed the R5000-Omx model as it could support speeds of up to 300 Mbps over the 50 km distance. For connections between all other sites, Tamer Group deployed the R5000-Smn and the R5000-Lmn products.

One of the biggest benefits of the InfiNet solution has been the ability for Tamer Group to transmit significant volumes of business-critical data between their various sites. They currently depend on the InfiNet solution for exchange synchronization of their Storage Area Networks (SANs) in their data center and disaster recovery sites. 

Another benefit has been the long-term cost savings. As Mr. Al Jammal explains, “The upfront investment for the InfiNet solution, when compared to other technologies, is slightly higher as obviously, there are a lot of hardware costs. But over the long term, the TCO is much lower. Implementing the InfiNet solution has also saved our IT resources a lot of time, as it has significantly reduced the amount of effort required to manage and maintain the network. While we do have the ability to monitor several parameters like performance, availability, bandwidth and transmission on a day-to-day basis, we have a service contract in place with United Horizons to take care of any problems with the network.”

“I am extremely pleased with the InfiNet solutions – the reliability and stability of the network has allowed us to deploy and support several business-critical processes. Based on our experience with InfiNet, I am confident that as we expand our operations, we will rely on InfiNet solutions for our wireless network infrastructure,” concluded Mr. Al Jammal.

Established in 2014 in Saudi Arabia, Virgin Mobile turns out to be successful in targeting the largest mobile market in the Middle East and especially the youth. In an interview with Telecom Review, Virgin Mobile’s CEO, Fouad Halawi, talked about the company’s achievement so far, the hosting of MVNO that boosted competition and its  close relationship with the young consumer.

hy was Virgin launched in Saudi Arabia in 2014? For example, what gaps did you see in the market where you saw a brand like Virgin Mobile could flourish?
Several factors contributed to Virgin’s launch in Saudi Arabia, the most prominent of which include the CITC issuing of licenses for MVNO’s to operate in the Kingdom, allowing us to access a huge market that was previously unavailable to us. Secondly, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest markets in the Middle East, especially when one takes into consideration the telecom industry within the country itself. Operators have access to an extremely diverse population that can be tapped into on several touch points.

And finally, one of the major pulls for launching in KSA was the youth segment in the Kingdom which is by far the largest segment of all, representing around 50% of the total population. Given that no operator in KSA targets the youth specifically, we thought it was just perfect to do so given the size of this segment, especially given the fact that Virgin Mobile is a youth brand at heart, and our product offering is tailor made for the youth’s wants and needs.

How did the CITC’s decision in 2014 to make each of KSA’s three mobile operators host an MVNO to boost competition affect the industry in Saudi Arabia?
The KSA mobile market has seen extraordinary growth over the last 10 years. Today, there are around 48 million mobile subscriptions compared to around 25 million in 2006. That growth led directly to the government’s decision to allow MVNOs to enter the market which, in and of itself, has led to market disruption. MVNOs have shown the way forward for other operators – they’re more agile, nimbler and more willing to take risks. Their youth means that they have less to lose and that has allowed them to compete against their well-established and often better-funded competitors.

For Virgin Mobile, the challenge of taking on the incumbents has been accepted wholeheartedly, from the way it looks after its customers to the look and feel of the stores to the customer-specified bundles. All aspects of the brand and service have been designed to appeal to the large swathe of people not satisfied with what they were getting from their operators. Virgin Mobile has been able to tap into the need for change felt by many young consumers and with its less-cumbersome structures and processes; it has been able to meet those needs.

Have other factors, such as the drop in oil prices, affected Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia’s performance?
Continued instability in oil prices and the impact of Vision 2030 both mean Virgin Mobile will need to remain as agile as ever in order to maintain its trajectory. We believe Virgin Mobile is well set for the challenges the next 12 months will bring.

Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia passed a significant milestone this year: crossing the 2 million customer mark. What does this achievement mean in terms of the company’s growth?
Our philosophy has always been very straightforward: simple and fair propositions underpinned by a great customer experience. That has really resonated with Saudis – the Saudi youth in particular – and has been at the heart of our success since our launch just two years ago. Virgin Mobile’s success lies in an absolute focus on innovation, both in its plans and customer experience. With one of the youngest populations on the planet and the highest smartphone penetration in the world, we have been able to capitalize on the demand for data due to shifting customer preference.

As far as what this achievement means in terms of the company’s future growth, we see two major points:

Broader Customer Base: Our company growth has the advantage of exposing Virgin Mobile to a wider audience. Customers, like employees, are important in operating a successful company. Our growth will place Virgin Mobile in the forefront of many customers’ minds.

New Personnel: One clear advantage our businesses growth is the opportunity to staff the company with new, qualified Saudi youth. Since our people are our most important and valuable assets, acquiring new and talented personnel is a clear-cut advantage for Virgin Mobile. These people will bring fresh ideas to the organization and bring a sense of camaraderie to the organization.

Where are you seeing growth spots in Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia’s customer range, and in what areas is the company innovating?
Virgin mobile Saudi Arabia is focusing on two main areas; first is improving the customer journey through major partnerships, the most recent one is partnering with Genesys in order to elevate the customer journey experience through a digital engagement center. This center will address issues and queries in a speedy and “informed” matter. Virgin believes it will increase efficiency and mostly increase customer satisfaction. The second area is youth engagement, through many initiatives and sponsorship of youth activities across the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has a large youth population. How does Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia appeal to the youth?
Virgin Mobile’s success has been to break out of its original demographic heartland into a broader customer base. It no longer counts just the Saudi youth as it customers and a typical Virgin Mobile user is as likely to be in their 40s as 20s. What does mark out all Virgin Mobile customers is that they want to be – and be seen as – different. And Virgin Mobile has given them a natural home to express their differences; whether that’s the bundle they choose for themselves or the way in which they interact with the company.

To meet the challenge of ever expanding smartphone and mobile broadband growth, STC and Ericsson have sealed a strategic deal that will deliver state of the art solutions in the Radio Access Network, resulting in high capacity ready networks in Riyadh and Jeddah; thus, doubling 4G network capacity and boosting performance even further throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Through this strategic deal, STC will secure improved end-user experience and readiness for smooth capacity enhancement to meet increasing demands and requirements of variety of new applications. By modernizing its networks, STC will accommodate the communications needs of the highly-demand Saudi market, and lay the foundation to meet future network requirements.

Ericsson addresses these challenges by delivering new scalable solutions and services to provide better network performance and end-user experience. Solutions to be delivered to STC will expand the existing coverage footprint, while densifying sites for better coverage, capacity and quality.  With Ericsson’s state-of-the-art radio systems, STC will be able to boost its application coverage, indoor performance and cope with rapid demand increase and limited spectrum availability. Ericsson radio system gives scalable and adaptive solutions for highly dynamic mobile markets like KSA. Indoor venue demands, expectations and traffic growth will be addressed by delivering In-Building Solutions utilizing the latest technologies, products and capabilities.  Ericsson Microwave and Transmission will provide connectivity solutions to connect new sites including small cells in addition to expansions and planned upgrades.

Ericsson fully supports STC to implement its strategy of empowering knowledge-based economy. Accordingly, as part of this project Ericsson will provide extensive training to upskill STC employees in the latest mobile network technologies and enable the talents for dealing with tremendous technology shifts in the market.

Moreover, as part of the deal, Ericsson and STC are currently deploying the first 5G trial in the Middle East as a direct result of STC’s vision of being the prime diver for the next generation solutions for Mobile Broadband and digital transformation. This early pre-commercial trial will give STC an early exposure for 5G technology development and will open the space for tailored 5G use cases in the Saudi market. 5G is coming with wide promises for industry, business and society transformation. Therefore, this early trial gives STC a leading position in experiencing and co-developing this new wave of technology.

Ericsson is present today in all high traffic LTE markets including US, Japan, and South Korea, and is ranked first for handling the most global LTE traffic.  In addition, forty percent of the world's total mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks.  More than 270 LTE RAN and Evolved Packet Core networks have been delivered by Ericsson worldwide, of which 200 are live commercially.

 

Mobily, together with Ericsson, is introducing TDD 4x4 MIMO technology to its LTE network in the western region of Saudi Arabia. This technology will be deployed using the state-of-the-art Ericsson Radio System and L16 network software release. Thanks to 4x4 MIMO technology, Mobily subscribers can enjoy higher data speeds, increased network capacity, and an overall enhanced end-user experience. With mobile data traffic expected to double year-on-year, it is imperative to find solutions, like 4x4 MIMO technology, that will optimize data usage.

"We want to ensure that our end-user will reap significant benefits from the deployment of 4x4 MIMO technology," said Maziad AlHarbi, chief technology officer at Mobily. "Ericsson's unique 4x4 MIMO technology enables us to accelerate data speeds to a maximum of up to 220 Mbps on a 20 MHz LTE TDD carrier. Undoubtedly, this will significantly improve our customer experience, which is corresponding with our strategy."

Ericsson's 4x4 MIMO technology addresses data speed and capacity demands in the most challenging areas and this in turn helps deliver a superior, improved connectivity experience to on-the-go Mobily subscribers. 4x4 MIMO technology increases the spectral efficiency of the LTE connection thus doubling the data speed - to reach up to 220 Mbps on a 20 MHz TDD carrier - without the need for additional spectrum.

The fact that data speeds are increased using existing spectrum of the network provides a cost effective means to increase LTE network capacity.

Ali Eid, head of Ericsson Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine added: "Ericsson's 4x4 MIMO technology will give Mobily the ability to enhance its customers' experience - and ensure higher speeds with expanded and improved app coverage. Mobile broadband is now an integral part of our everyday lifestyle where constant connectivity is expected anytime, anywhere. By introducing our integrated 4x4 MIMO to the LTE network, we will be able to offer Mobily a more reliable and higher capacity network - especially designed to support its customers' connected lifestyles."

Ericsson is present today in all high traffic LTE markets including the US, Japan, and South Korea, and is ranked first for handling the most global LTE traffic. In addition, forty percent of the world's total mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks.  More than 250 LTE RAN and Evolved Packet Core networks have been delivered worldwide, of which 190 are live commercially.

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Telecom Review Summit 2016

Digital Magazine

Feb 2017

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