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How stc helped Saudi Arabia become the Middle East’s new digital hub

The world has changed in a very short space of time with the global pandemic altering the way in which we think, behave and interact. Restrictions around the world have meant that now, more than ever, people have been relying on technology in their everyday life. Thanks to lockdowns and social distancing, demand for mobile and Internet gaming has risen considerably and TV and online streaming services have surged. As we depend more and more on technology it’s vital that telecommunications companies are able to provide their customers with the high-speed Internet connection to cope with the increased demand – enter 5G. stc has been showcasing its advanced 5G technology at MWC Barcelona 2021, the world’s leading mobile technology event that’s attended by over 750 networks and 400 companies presenting the latest innovations. Guests have been enjoying over 250 conference and keynote sessions, of which stc’s GCEO Eng. Olayan M. Alwetaid spoke on the topic of sustainability within the ICT industry.

Saudi Arabia’s leading digital telecom company, has been busy changing the face of the Middle East, turning it into one of the leading digital hubs by pioneering the digital transformation of the region thanks to its advanced technologies, of which 5G is at the heart of. “5G technology promises significant benefits and breakthroughs that sparked an unprecedented wave of innovation in many different domains and applications,” says Eng. Haithem AlFaraj, Senior Vice President, stc. “The combination of unprecedented wireless network speed, extremely low latency, and features like edge cloud and network slicing and virtualisation can transform the ways in which data is generated, collected and used.”

The rapid growth of stc has seen the company launch the largest Digital Operations Control Center in the MENA region that can accommodate up to 2,300 employees. The facility includes a highly advanced system made up of various digital processes, such as simulation, digital infrastructure management, digital crises management and reinvention within a range of digital solutions. The Center lays the foundation for the company to become a true regional hub, offering a system of unparalleled digital services, while operating the biggest international gateways in the MENA region. The gateways have the capacity of more than 8.4 terabits per second, and are connected to various submarine cables. The facility consists of the latest protection and distribution systems in the world, used for the first time in the region to secure the company’s service system and the data transmission and voice circuits system for all customers.

stc Group CEO Eng. Olayan M. Alwetaid while speaking in the Green Agenda: We Act For Impact open panel session during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2021

Further adding to the stc’s growth, and in the presence, the company announced the launch of three Mega Data Centers in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Madina, funded with a SAR 1 billion investment. The facilities have been built with over 150 prefabricated modules (PFM’s) fully equipped with power, thermal management and IT infrastructure. They provide 10.8 MW of critical IT power (white space ready) expandable to 16.8 MW. Phase 2 of the program, already under construction, will bring the total Critical IT Power to 40.8 MW. The Data Centers’ aesthetics have received tier three certification for design and construction, from the global authority The Uptime Institute, and is fully compliant with local regulations. Phase 1 of the ambitious project is already complete with the new Data Centers in Jeddah and Madinah already online. Haithem M. Alfaraj, stc’s Senior VP of Technology and Operations said, “stc has reached a major milestone in providing next generation Data Centers, that will meet the current demands for digital infrastructure, with the flexibility to grow and mature with the digital evolution.” stc’s current network transformation and new Data Center program will fundamentally change the mission critical hosting space within the region, improving the agility and speed-to-market of the new services being rolled out in support of the Kingdom’s National Transformation Program 2020, and the Kingdom’s 2030 vision. Phase 2 will see stc deliver an additional four new Data Centers in strategic locations throughout the Kingdom. Phase 3 is under final planning stage to expand further in the Data Center facilities.

In a short space of time the company has amassed in excess of one million 5G subscribers. Already the most powerful telecommunications company in the Middle East, stc has since been recognised internationally by Forbes, which ranked the company among the top 44 in the world. stc’s rise as a global superpower has seen the company value increase a staggering 37.7 per cent to $64.3 billion. The growth comes as little surprise following stc’s rollout of its 5G network around KSA as part of big plans, which will soon see the country as one of the most technologically advanced in the world. Saudi Arabia was recently ranked the fourth best in the world in diffusing the 5G network according to the classification of the international Telecommunication Union.

During MWC Barcelona 2021 stc signs strategic agreements with pioneers of the telecommunications, networks, and information technology industries in the world

Since the launch of MENA’s first 5G network, back in 2018, stc has continued to expand its 5G offering by going through two main expansion phases and both private and public sectors in KSA are set to benefit from advancements in technology as it plans to enable all sectors the chance to implement the new solutions, including those in traditionally hard-to-reach rural areas. Today, stc has over 6,000 5G sites across 75 cities in the Kingdom, giving the company the widest 5G coverage in Saudi Arabia – equal to 37% of the population coverage. stc expects further network growth with increased traffic demands and has therefore sanctioned further 5G investment in order to expand the network’s capability to handle future traffic demands, targeting its Access, Backhaul and Core networks. The company also has ambitious plans in 2021 and 2022 to expand its 5G network further by re-farming a vast amount of its LTE bands to accommodate increased demand.

Plans are in place to continue stc’s growth as the company aims to further accelerate the digital performance across the region and has ambitious plans to become the ultimate MENA hub for digital solutions.

One of the other jewels in the crown of the stc Group is its partnership with Dizmo and the launch of a new smart home platform in the future city of Neom. The new metropolis will be filled with digital science from renewable energy on a scale unlike any other city in the world. The ‘smart city’ will use artificial intelligence to bring the most advanced technology directly into people’s homes. One such example is that of the partnership between Dizmo and Fitbit, which will see a health and wellness extension enabling a real-time digital relationship with doctors ensuring the person’s health is constantly monitored – all of which is made possible thanks to stc’s 5G capabilities. Neom will also be home to a state-of-the-art innovation centre for applications in virtual reality, augmented reality, smart home development, autonomous vehicles and the interaction between residents and digital infrastructure.

stc is playing a big role in the digitalization of KSA, in line with the Saudi National Vision 2030, the aim of which is to make the Kingdom an industrial powerhouse.


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