STC believes in long term sustainable growth through network quality and customer relationships
STC, as the largest integrated telecom operator in the MENA region, provides end to end turnkey solutions to customers ranging from residential customers to SMEs to large industries and governments. Although STC’s technical capability and infrastructure are world-class, they continue to explore new innovations and look for potential partnerships, and MWC participation is a perfect way to do both. STC has been at the forefront of broadband network development in recent years, both in mobile as well as fixed networking.
“We believe that the next generation of services and additional or alternative revenue streams will depend on fast, reliable and always connected internet access. We consistently strive to provide best in class broadband offerings, whether they are on fixed line or mobile networks.” said Dr. Khalid Al Biyari in an interview to Teletimes last year.
“In the mobile network, we started an ambitious modernization plan in 2012 that has transformed our entire access network to an all-IP, mostly software defined radio network. With this network, we now have the flexibility to quickly respond to changes in demand and technology direction” said Dr. Biyari. As an example to this, STC in 2011 introduced the worlds’ first commercial TD-LTE based network. This network is proven very successful and is now carrying almost half of STC’s mobile broadband traffic. Demand for mobile broadband services continues to grow rapidly however and in response they converted part of their 1800MHz spectrum from 2G to LTE, a change achieved very quickly due to the new infrastructure’s multi-technology capability. To further boost capacity, STC also introduced LTE-A carrier aggregation on the TD-LTE network doubling network speed and capacity. In parallel with the LTE expansions STC continues to develop the 3G network which is ready to support MC-HSPA speeds of up to 84Mbit/s depending on spectrum.
Mobile Network Enhancements
STC is the first in KSA to have successfully completed Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) testing using Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) enabling a smooth handover between 3G and 4G networks during calls without any perceived interruption or latency. This is be a key technology enhancement to be used in VoLTE service.
To support the massive growth in mobile data traffic, STC is testing small-cell deployments and public WiFi access to enable mobile data offloading and more efficient use of radio spectrum. To make planning, configuration, management and optimization of increasingly complex mobile radio access networks simpler and faster STC is studying self-organizing networks.
Finally Carrier Aggregation is just the first step on the long road of LTE-Advanced technology and STC will continue to deploy more LTE-A features and functions as soon as they become available.
STC has deployed an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) which will support VoLTE; these voice service offerings will be further enhanced with the GSMA defined Rich Communications Suite (RCS) that will add chat, instant messaging, content (image, video) sharing capabilities to enrich the user experience. IMS will of course also deliver the much anticipated fixed – mobile convergence, currently it is already supporting all our VDSL and FTTH subscribers and will move into the mobile network with 4G.
Fiber to the Home (FTTH)
As bandwidth demand per user continues to grow exponentially, STC will continue its aggressive rollout of FTTH for increased population and enterprise coverage. STC is evaluation next generation FTTH systems like 10G-GPON and WDM-PON and will be able to serve customers with higher bandwidth requirements than the currently available 200Mbit/s with access speeds of up to 1Gbit/s in the near future. DWDM optical infrastructure To support the massive growth in bandwidth in the core network, the underlying STC DWDM optical infrastructure is expanded with 100Gbit/s rate channels that enable 8 Terabits/s to be carried on each optical fiber. The focus over the next few years will be to make sure that the optical infrastructure is developed and ready to carry 400Gbit/s rate signals to enhance the capacity of each fiber to over 30Tbit/s.
STC has long term partnerships with the leading suppliers in the industry, allowing them to take first advantage of their development efforts to further enhance the network and services offering. STC has a leading role in the MENA region, and is working closely with new partners to retain this position, both from a network as well as services point of view. STC has a proud tradition of being among the pioneers in terms of the introduction of latest technology solutions for our customers. STC differentiates itself from its competition by focusing on three areas simultaneously; access, quality and solutions.
Infrastructure – Access for all
STC is totally committed to ensuring that its customers have access to the latest fixed and mobile communication services over the most up to date network infrastructure with the widest geographic reach possible. The 4G LTE services are already accessible to more than 85% of the Saudi population, while the more mature 3G and 2G services are available to 93% and 99% of Saudi population respectively. Deploying physical fiber infrastructure is considerably more time consuming in comparison. STC has literally gone all out with the installation of our Fiber to the Home (FTTH) solution and has so far reached more than 1 million locations across KSA. The FTTH connection base will continue to expand with many more connections in the pipeline. STC submarine cables cover vast distances ensuring optimal connectivity with partners in multiple countries across the globe and with capacities that ensure that quality services are delivered to the clients.
Quality of the highest standard
Quality at STC means that networks are constantly being upgraded in terms of technology and capacity to ensure that the clients are served to the highest international quality standards. Moreover, with robust, fault tolerant multi-channel networks, STC ensures very high availability and quality based delivery. Other than that, STC’s state of the art network ensures clear voice quality, no congestion and lightning fast data speeds.
Latest technology – solutions
Last but not least is the solutions aspect, where we see that a robust ICT infrastructure is key for delivery of a broad spectrum of services and products to the customers. STC’s modern network infrastructure is being used for delivery of voice, streaming video, audio, content, e-government, financial, health and education services related solutions among many others. As an organization, the aim is to provide a robust, quality infrastructure that supports solutions and services exceeding the current customer needs. In order to do so STC is owning or partnering with companies that can deliver these solutions like INvision for our IP-TV channel bouquet and Google for caching the most popular internet content in KSA.
“The aim is to provide a robust, quality infrastructure that supports solutions and services exceeding the current customer needs”
Obviously, any investment in infrastructure requires a solid business case and needs to be driven by a smart balance of business demands and technology push. A general industry concern is of course the ARPU development showing a flat or even declining trend while investments in infrastructure continue to rise. STC consistently aims for delivery of best in class services and infrastructure, driven by customer needs rather than competitive pressure.
Socio-Economic benefits of telecom services are a known fact now. Investments in high speed networks contribute to the GDP growth from anywhere between 0.7% to 1.3% annually, boosting employment and enabling digital society with better access to information, contribution and collaboration; enhance health, education and public services, thereby impacting the quality of life and social welfare.
STC has been instrumental in deploying state of the art network and technologies putting the Kingdom firmly on the ‘telecommunication map’, so to speak, yielding substantial economic benefits directly or indirectly.
STC has been named the top Telecom brand in Asia and consistently has been among the Top 500 global brands. This is a recognition of our continuous efforts. STC has contributed to not just the 17,000 plus jobs it has directly offered in the Kingdom, but to thousands of indirect jobs that have been created through retailers, vendors as well as people who simply utilize STC network, whether mobile or fixed or broadband to conduct their businesses and day to day activities. Saudi Arabia has traditionally been seen as oil based economy.
However, increased telecommunication services have provided that much needed supplementary stream improving the ratio of non-oil based economy in the GDP. Going forward, telecom companies in general and STC in particular will continue to contribute greatly towards the vision of a knowledge-based digital economy in the country.
The explosive demand for Internet and related services has shaken up the industry. New waves of services are replacing the traditional connectivity services. The industry shift towards data has resulted in traditional services like voice and messaging to decline. So while we continue to consolidate and leverage upon our core strengths, you will also see an increased focus upon digitization and new breed of services spanning multiple sectors such as health, education and financial services etc. The ultimate goal in STC’s corporate strategy seems to point towards Long Term Sustainable Growth with Quality and Customer Relationships acting as pillars.
Author: Gulraiz Khalid