Saudi Arabia’s progressive approach places it on the 5G fast track
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been pioneers in the deployment of 5G networks, being some of the first markets in the world to rollout the new technology. The governments and regulators of these countries quickly awarded spectrum that has enabled mobile operators to act fast. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in particular, is at the forefront of this drive not only in the Middle East and Africa region, but also globally. Their principal operators, Mobily, STC and Zain, are driving a comprehensive ecosystem of technical, operational, financial and commercial partnerships, that are already achieving impressive results. A recent Meqyas report, for example – an initiative set up by country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to measure the quality of citizen’s internet experiences – highlighted that the average 5G download speeds across the country was a blisteringly fast 315.55 Mbps in Q4 2020.
This flourishing ecosystem originated from a progressive regulatory and spectrum allocation strategy, under the leadership of CITC. CITC’s mission is to unlock the potential of radiocommunication in Saudi Arabia for a smarter and safer future. This is a holistic vision that outlines the potential of radio spectrum, to transform Saudi Arabia into a digital society by enabling a range of industries and sectors. This aligns with the country’s Saudi Vision 2030, that aims to ensure availability of radio spectrum that fulfills the needs of spectrum license holders and end-users alike and supports the interests of the whole nation.
Additional 5G Allocation
However, CITC is already looking ahead to the future by instigating the process of allocating additional spectrum for 5G. This is a notable accolade which will position Saudi Arabia as the country with the most spectrum allocated for mobile use globally in the Sub-GHz, Sub-6 GHz and Sub-30 GHz frequency ranges. Specifically, they will allocate the 600 MHz band and 3.8 – 4 GHz band for mobile use as well as enable secondary mobile use in the 28 GHz band. This is an important and decisive move that will ensure timely access to sufficient spectrum that meets both current and future demand. Overall, an aggregated 23GHz of spectrum will be available across all technologies and CSPs, following key guiding principles:
- Service and technology neutrality that ensures a fair balance of complementary and competing technologies.
- Sufficient spectrum for 5G and related innovative deployment requirements.
- Openness for a wide range of uses including licensed, license-exempt, and lightly licensed approaches.
- Innovation by making a variety of bands available for new concepts in a range of different manners from trial licenses to shared and short-term access.
- Monitoring the developments and best practices for awarding spectrum in a timely and aligned manner to international and regional standards and ecosystems.
This newly available additional 5G spectrum will support Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation and help it to accelerate even further. Each band offers a specific benefit:
- 600 MHz (617-652 /663-698 MHz): This low-band spectrum will make it possible for operators to provide a wider coverage and stronger in-building penetration of the wireless signal. This band will also benefit from a continuously growing 5G ecosystem and enable operators to serve thousands of customers across hundreds of square kilometers with just few towers.
- 3800-4000 MHz: This additional spectrum in the C-Band range is considered ideal for 5G because it carries plenty of data while also traveling significant distances.
- 28GHz (mmWave spectrum): mmWave spectrum can deliver speeds of between 1 to 3 Gbps or even higher and this ultra-high capacity can be used in hot-spots and industry vertical 5G use cases.
Leveraging Nokia’s global experience and 5G portfolio in Saudi Arabia
Nokia’s portfolio offers cutting-edge 5G services with the right mix of coverage and capacity, based on our comprehensive AirScale radio access portfolio. Indeed, Nokia’s 600MHz solution is already deployed across the US with T-Mobile and we recently announced a five-year deal with AT&T for C-Band deployment. Similarly, Nokia’s mmWave product family for 28GHz is also widely deployed across multiple networks globally.
I would like to congratulate CTIC and the leadership of the Kingdom for executing such a visionary and progressive strategy, which places 5G as a key enabler of the Saudi Vision 2030. Nokia has worked closely with the CITC and the operators in Saudi Arabia, which is an important country for us, for the past few decades, supporting the country’s digital transformation. We look forward to continuing to bring world-class 5G innovations to our customers in the Kingdom.