Displaying items by tag: Etihad Etisalat

Saudi Arabia’s Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), in collaboration with Nokia, has successfully conducted a trial of LTE to the Home (LTTH) and implemented it using FastMile technology to enable LTE technology on a 4G network and become available on 2G networks. This comes out of Mobily’s interest to provide the best speeds for its customers with high quality.

“We have a long and fruitful relationship with Nokia, and this successful trial starts a new chapter in our association, through applying FastMile Nokia technology that will enable Mobily to extend the reach of our network in new areas. At the same time, it will allow us to use the existing infrastructure thus helping us to control our expenditure,” said Alaa Malki – CNO, Mobily.

Such contributions from Mobily are due to it being a leading company in the field of telecom and IT in Saudi Arabia, and out of its pursuit to implement the latest technologies for the benefit of its customers to enjoy high quality services in line with current and future technological developments.

“We are pleased to work with Mobily on this trial and support their plans to provide best-in-class broadband services to their subscribers,” said Tony Awad, Head of Mobily Customer Team, Nokia. “With this deployment, Mobily will be able to attract new customers who are currently unable to enjoy broadband services. Nokia FastMile will also allow them to minimize the deployment cost by utilizing the existing mobile infrastructure.”

Published in Telecom Operators

Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) in Saudi Arabia reported a Q3 loss, blaming a requirement introduced last year that customers had to register their fingerprint with SIM cards. The company’s net losses increased by 5 percent to 174.5 million riyals ($46.53 million) it said in a statement to the Saudi bourse. Revenue also dropped 4.3 percent to 2.8 billion riyals.

Mobily said introducing the fingerprint registration rule led to an “erosion” of its customer base. The requirement was introduced last year by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, who instructed all SIM cards issued in Saudi Arabia to be linked to a fingerprint record held at the National Information Center.

Mobily competes with Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Zain Saudi Arabia in the kingdom. In September, Mobily and Zain Saudi paid the first installments (30 percent of the total amount) for the acquisition of additional spectrum in the 1800MHz band. The new spectrum will be valid for fifteen years, after it goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Mobily paid SAR126.9 (US$33 million) for its first payment installment and Zain KSA paid SAR 253.8 million (US$68 million), before the deadline of September 11. The fees must be paid in equal installments (7 percent of the total each) over ten years, with the first installment due in 2019.

Published in Finance

Saudi Arabia’s second and third largest mobile operators, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi Arabia have reportedly paid the first installments (30 percent of the total amount) for the acquisition of additional spectrum in the 1800MHz band. The new spectrum will be valid for fifteen years, after it goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Mobily paid SAR126.9 (US$33 million) for its first payment installment and Zain KSA paid SAR 253.8 million (US$68 million), before the deadline of September 11. The fees must be paid in equal installments (7 percent of the total each) over ten years, with the first installment due in 2019.

According to TeleGeography, CITC, the Saudi communications and IT regulator, awarded the additional 1800MHz spectrum to Zain and Mobily in June this year, following an auction held on May 23. Zain KSA was awarded 2x10MHz in the 1800MHz band for SAR844 million and Mobily gained a 2x5MHz paired block in the 1800MHz band for SAR422 million.

Published in Finance

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj becomes safer and smarter

Written on Sunday, 10 September 2017 11:37

Saudi Arabia receives around 1.75 million pilgrims from around the world for the annual Islamic Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a logistic challenge for the government, as well as telecom providers striving to cater to the dense crowds. The solution, according to reports, has been the implementation of smart connectivity.

Hajj pilgrim numbers have steadily increased in recent years which have led to numerous accidents and deaths due to overcrowding. In 2015, a stampede resulted in 769 deaths and injuries to 934 others, according to Saudi authorities. The Associated Press totaled at least 1,470 fatalities from official reports from other countries, making it the most deadly Hajj incident to date.

But the Hajj is a major revenue driver for Saudi Arabia, raking in around $8.5 billion in 2014. It’s the kingdom’s highest source of revenue after oil and gas, and the country is expected to depend more on the event as oil and gas sales decline. Saudi Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s plan to reduce its dependence on oil by diversifying its economy and developing service sectors.

Introducing more connectivity and smart solutions, it seems, has made the Hajj pilgrimage a lot safer the past two years in Saudi Arabia, and a much more seamless experience for those involved. In 2016, for example, Saudi authorities issued electronic bracelets to pilgrims containing personal and medical information to assist authorities caring for and identifying people, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The water-resistant bracelets, developed by British security firm G4S, are connected to GPS and contain crucial information such as passport numbers and addresses, and also useful information to worshippers, such as timings of prayers, and a multi-lingual help desk to guide non-Arabic speakers around the event. The high-tech measure, G4S said, would help Saudi authorities provide care “and identify people.”

Wearable technology company Daira Tech also pledged its services to make Hajj and Umrah “safer and simpler” by developing its own connected bracelet called ‘Hajj Guider’, which provides tracking, voice communications and an emergency/panic button. The company’s smartphone app allows users to navigate offline, setup groups, track friends and family, and create custom geo fences.

Since the 1950s, Saudi Arabia has spent over $100 billion to increase pilgrimage facilities, according to the Encyclopedia of Islam. The government has addressed and improved major issues such as housing transportation, sanitation and healthcare, with the result that pilgrims now enjoy modern facilities and perform rites at ease.  

Saudi authorities reportedly installed more than 800 surveillance cameras at the Grand Mosque in Mecca linked to control rooms staffed by Special Forces monitoring pilgrim movements during Hajj rituals to ensure maximum safety and security.

Live crowd analytics software has also been implemented by authorities, which is not only able to spot incidents happening in crowds, but can also predict where overcrowding is likely to happen. Authorities can analyze live data that feeds into an operations room. The software, developed by London-based CrowdVision, provides real-time feedback on crowd numbers, densities, and so on.

“Crowds can be dangerous places. Whether triggered by factions within the crowd, by natural disasters or misguided crowd managers, there is a long history of crushes, stampedes and failed evacuations," said CrowdVision co-founder Fiona Strens. "[The software] spots patterns of crowd behavior that indicate potential danger such as high densities, pressure, turbulence, stop-and-go waves and other anomalies.”

Improved telecom services

Busy public events like Hajj create challenges not only for government, but also for telecom operators, as many people attempt to access mobile networks at the same time. Saudi Arabia’s telecom providers, in response to the growing number of Hajj pilgrims, have stepped up their game for the event by providing premium connectivity for all.

Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the kingdom’s largest telecom provider, increased Wi-Fi coverage in Mecca and Holy sites this year to prepare for the Hajj pilgrimage. The increased coverage extends to tunnels, bridges, and a number of public utilities in Mina.

STC increased Wi-Fi by 206 percent compared to last year, it said. The increase enabled a high speed of data to flow to pilgrims and workforces. The company said it dedicated all of its technical and human capabilities “to serve pilgrims coming to the country.” STC even announced a special offer for the first time with "SAWA Ziyara" SIM cards, that were specialized for this year’s Hajj season.

Saudi Arabia’s second largest telecom provider, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), also made exceptional connectivity preparations to cater for the needs of Hajj pilgrims this year. The company said it increased data capacity by 50 percent through 4G in Holy areas to improve data services.  

Mobily also provided over 1,300 Wi-Fi access points with a capacity of 2,080 MB per second in the Holy areas of Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah, it said. Additionally, the telecom provider set up more than 1,000 fixed and mobile communication towers in Mecca and other Holy places.

The company, partly owned by UAE’s Etisalat Group, recently signed an agreement to develop its mobile network in different regions around the Kingdom with Nokia, Huawei and Ericsson. The agreement comes in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and its objectives that focus on developing Saudi Arabia’s telecom and IT sector, said Eng. Ahmed Aboudoma, CEO of Mobily.   

Mobily’s Chief Technology Officer and Head of Hajj Committee, Eng. Maziad Alharbi, said the company feels “honored to be one of the national companies working in serving pilgrims every year.”

Efforts to increase connectivity for Hajj have also been undertaken by Zain Saudi Arabia, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Zain Group, which announced in May this year that it had deployed Nokia’s Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) platform for the delivery of smart applications to subscribers heading to Mecca. The new solution enabled Zain subscribers to navigate crowded areas safely.

Zain Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Al Deghaither, Chief Technology Officer, said the company had invested in modernizing its network in the Hajj area. “The deployment of the Nokia MEC platform and two smart Hajj applications on this network is yet another milestone in our evolution toward building smart cities in the kingdom,” he said.

Following the successful trial during the 2016 Hajj, Nokia and Zain deployed the Nokia Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) platform together with Edge Video Orchestration over the network using both macro and small cell base stations to enhance the experience for Zain's subscribers.

The Nokia MEC platform allows applications to be hosted closer to the edge of the network, therefore closer to subscribers, to efficiently use network resources and open up new opportunities for the delivery of tailored services in high-traffic locations. By combining MEC with Edge Video Orchestration, video feeds can be efficiently broadcast to multiple subscribers' devices simultaneously with millisecond latency.

During Hajj, subscribers could download and use two site-specific applications over the MEC-enabled network, including ‘Zain People Finder’ which helps to easily navigate crowds and locate people; and the ‘Live Hajj’ app which allows users to view video streams from the Al Rahmah Mountain, to identify the best time of day to perform the 'flinging of the pebbles' ritual.

“We are pleased to work with Zain to provide the benefits of using MEC to deliver a differentiated experience at such an important event,” said Ali Al Jitawi, head of the Zain Saudi Arabia Customer Team at Nokia.

Nokia also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with STC this year to collaborate on the development of 5G and IoT use cases in Saudi Arabia. Under the terms of the MoU, Nokia and STC will carry out trials of technologies such as 4.5G Pro and 4.9G, key steps on the path to 5G to build the capacity and throughput speeds needed for new applications.

The collaboration will play an important role in STC’s digitalization transformation and its support of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision, which includes a strategic and comprehensive plan to develop the Hajj sector so as to allow the largest number of Muslims possible to attend.  

Published in Featured

After two years of uncertainty for Saudi telecom operators Mobily (Etihad Etisalat) and Zain KSA, an arbitration judgment panel in Saudi Arabia finally ended the feud on November 13, in Zain’s favor. Mobily is Saudi Arabia’s second largest telecom operator. In December 2014, Mobily sought arbitration to obtain 2.2 billion riyals ($586.28 million) it says was owned to it by its rival Zain KSA. The dispute came about between the companies over a 2008 contract under which Mobily would provide services such as domestic roaming and site sharing to Zain KSA, which began commercial operations that year. The feud has now come to an end with Zain KSA’s CEO claiming the case has had “no impact on Zain’s net earnings... it’s time to put [this] legacy issue behind us.”

The panel judgment rejected 90% of Mobily’s SAR2.2 billion claim. Mobily was allocated only SAR 219 million of its claim. “I trust that this judgment brings to an end this legacy issue that has overshadowed both companies, and indeed the entire telecommunications sector in the Kingdom,” said Hassan Kabbani, CEO of Zain Saudi Arabia, after the judgment panel announced their decision in relation to the disputed SAR 2.2 billion claim by Mobily from Zain KSA arising from the services agreement signed between the two parties on May 6, 2008.

“Throughout the arbitration proceedings we have acknowledged that Zain owed Mobily a modest amount. As Zain maintained adequate financial provision to cover this amount, I can confirm that the judgment amount of SAR 219 million will have no additional impact on the Company’s net earnings.”

This statement made by the CEO was in line with a previous statement made by the company in 2014, which read, “If it is determined that jurisdiction over the dispute is vested in arbitration, or if resort is made to the courts, Zain, according to what is known now, does not expect an unusual impact on its financial statements.”

In 2014, Mobily claimed that Zain Saudi Arabia owed it 2.2 billion riyals as of November 30, 2013. In a statement then, the company said it could not reach an “amicable settlement with Zain Saudi.” The statement added, “Accordingly, and for the purpose to protect Mobily rights, Mobily decided to revert back to arbitration as per the Arbitration Rules and Regulations and in accordance with the said Service Agreement.”

In response to this, Zain Saudi Arabia, which is an affiliate of Kuwait-based Zain Group, rejected Mobily’s claim in a statement to Riyadh’s bourse, insisting that it only owed around 13 million riyals. In 2014, Zain’s CEO Hassan Kabbani told Reuters, “We have been asking Mobily to provide documentation that could justify this claim and so far they have failed to do so – these claims are not valid.”

In a statement released on December 2, 2014, Zain Saudi Arabia said it is “not clear to Zain the basis for Mobily’s arbitrary demands, even though Zain has been requesting Mobily for a long time to explain its demands. Zain has used Mobily’s network pursuant to the Agreement, and it has always thoroughly reviewed the demands sent by Mobily that are supported by documentation. Zain has timely settled the amounts it owes, except for a currently outstanding amount of SAR 13,000,000 approximately, according to its unaudited records.”

Kabbani acknowledged that Zain KSA had used Mobily’s national roaming services until August 2013 before Zain KSA switched to Saudi Arabia’s leading operator STC (Saudi Telecom Company). Zain KSA said Mobily’s claims contradicted the decisions of the telecom regulator in the country. “It appears to Zain that some of the amounts that Mobily is demanding contradict the regulatory resolutions by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC),” said Zain KSA.

Mobily claimed that it had received irregular payments from Zain KSA, and thus sought 58.7 million riyals in damages. The dispute eventually dragged out, and the arbitration panel was extended in December 2015 for 12 months, until a decision was eventually made in November 2016.

“I would like to thank our team of legal advisors, technical experts, accounting experts and of course the team at Zain for their support over the last two years,” said Kabbani in his statement. “Telecommunications by its nature is one of the most interconnected industries in the world.  As a sector, we all need to put this legacy matter behind us and focus on achieving the strategic objectives of Vision 2030 for the benefit of the Kingdom and all consumers.”

Zain Saudi Arabia highlighted the professionalism and transparency of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce’s new commercial arbitration guidelines, which “greatly contribute to maintaining the confidence and trust in the Kingdom’s business environment,” said Zain KSA. In the end, the panel judgment rejected 90% of Mobily’s SAR2.2 billion claim. Mobily was allocated only SAR 219 million of its claim.

Mobily and Zain KSA are following a similar path in Saudi Arabia – a country that is looking to diversify its economy. Both telcos are said to be looking to sell towers as network quality becomes similar across different operators.

In March this year, Kabbani said Zain KSA is considering several options for its thousands of telecommunications towers. He said all scenarios are possible, such as selling them for cash and leasing them back, or working with competitors to create one company to manage the towers. Mobily is also said to be considering a sale, which could fetch as much as $2 billion according to sources. It was reported in February by Saudi news website Maaal that “high-level negotiations” were happening to create a company to own the towers of all three major telecommunication providers in the Kingdom, including STC, Mobily and Zain KSA.

Despite the feud between Mobily and Zain KSA, Kabbani says Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications industry will be less effected than other industries by the country’s economic slowdown which has been brought on by dropping oil prices, because telcos in the Kingdom could greatly benefit from the government’s diversification pans.

Published in Featured