Saudi Arabia drives fibre penetration with open access network

Saudi Arabian regulator, Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), has managed to get all telcos on the same page to join an open access network initiative.

While the theory of an open access network is one which can be appreciated by many, the realities of making such initiatives work are another matter. Not only does the appropriate frameworks have to be put in place, all the telcos have to agree. This is a significant hurdle, but it seems the CITC has negotiated it quite effectively.

“The adoption of an open access model will increase the use of our fibre-optic infrastructure through the development of commercial agreements that make it easier for subscribers to move from one provider to another,” said Mohammed Al Tamimi, Governor of the CITC.

The objectives of the agreement are to promote competition in the market, support investment by the telcos to improve fibre connections and also improve the quality of the service. Through this initiative, the CITC hopes to add more than 3 million households to the fibre networks, allowing subscribers to choose their broadband supplier independently from the infrastructure owner.

As it stands, Saudi Arabia can boast of FTTH penetration of 41.8%. There are of course several nations who can told this, but this is considerably more advanced than the vast majority. Across the Middle East region, the numbers do look very attractive, especially compared to Europe where the average for the 28 member states of the EU is 13.1% penetration.

While the Middle East region is not one which is often discussed in the global telecoms space, progress is looking very steady in Saudi Arabia. Alongside the ambitious plans to drive 3 million FTTH connections, the telco regulator also claims there are now 5,797 5G base across 30 cities, with three service providers offering 5G contracts.

Nokia trumpets 5G wins in Saudi Arabia and China

Kit vendor Nokia has announced Zain KSA is all-in with Nokia’s 5G portfolio, while China Mobile is using its new massive MIMO gear.

Zain Saudi Arabia seems pretty keen on 5G, having announced its first 5G call back in May. It didn’t say anything about where it was getting its kit from at the time, but now seems to have given Nokia the green light to shout its deal win from the rooftops. Specifically the two companies have signed a three year deal, involving Nokia’s full 5G portfolio, to roll out 5G across Saudi Arabia.

Amr K. El Leithy, head of the Middle East and Africa market at Nokia, said:  “We are committed to transforming the service experience for Zain’s customers and enhancing industrial productivity by enabling extreme broadband services,” said Nokia’s head of MEA Amr K. El Leithy. “This contract, which includes 5G RAN, backhaul, security and services, demonstrates the breadth of our full-portfolio strengths and depth of global expertise in deploying these next-generation projects.”

Meanwhile over in China Nokia has also been given the all-clear by China Mobile to crow about the fact that the massive operator is the first to use its new 320W massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna. Apparently Nokia made this antenna specifically for the Chinese market and its massive bandwidth and coverage requirements, so it must be especially gratifying to see China Mobile snapping it up.

The development of the AirScale MAA with its industry-first 320W output is the direct result of input from the China Mobile team on what they needed to speed the deployment of 5G services to their customers,” said Mark Atkinson, Head of the 5G and Small Cells business at Nokia. “We look forward to continuing to work with CMCC as its 5G plans evolve.”

Nokia likes to bang on about its 43 commercial 5G deals at the end of its press releases these days, but tends not to mention that only 23 of them are with named operators and only five are currently live. Ericsson claims 22 publicly announced 5G contracts, with nine of them live. Huawei recently claimed 50 5G commercial contracts without naming any of the operators, so it looks like a tight race between the three of them.