stc’s formula for Success: Realising the Potential of 5G Technologies for Enterprises
By Haithem Alfaraj, Group Chief Technology Officer, stc Group
stc’s 5G journey started in 2018, and since then, we have committed to delivering the best experiences in next-generation connectivity to our customers. Powered by a meticulous approach to R&D, strong collaboration with leading vendors, and strategic investment in cutting-edge technologies, we have emerged as a regional and global leader in 5G infrastructure deployment and relevant commercial products.
We pioneered 5G and successfully deployed 5G networks on a larger scale in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. As of Q3 2022, we have deployed 7,247 5G towers to serve different gulf communities and support the digital transformation in the region. Our 5G customer base has continued to proliferate in consumer and enterprise segments. Specifically, the consumer business unit has seen a 6.9% growth in revenue as attributed to an 8% increase in mobile revenue and an 18.1% increase in FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) subscribers, demonstrating the overall success of stc’s 5G network and supporting technologies and our great value proposition as a network provider.
Steering an advanced 5G application strategy
Besides a strong focus on R&D, what makes stc Group the leading network provider in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is our dedication to advancing technologies, the focus of our people, and a willingness to learn from different sources. Our team consists of professionals such as academics and engineers who proactively study emerging technologies and incorporate them with industry knowledge and best practices. We also ensure that new solutions, as part of the R&D capabilities, go through a very intensive development process, including field trials, before they are ready.
With an understanding that every new technology capability and service has in the product lifecycle, we engage our partners, study the market, and work closely with customers to identify pain points. Customers view digital transformation or 5G advanced services as a way to solve their business challenges. To facilitate that, we at stc Group need to develop expertise in this domain and maintain a close relationship with them to ensure our solutions meet their needs and expectations. With this customer-centred mindset, we could roll out our access networks based on the latest technologies like massive MIMO on 5G. To promote further research in 5G, AI and beyond, we have researchers specialising in futuristic technologies, including early-stage discussions surrounding 5.5G/6G and how stc Group can contribute to its development.
In addition, we have set up benchmarks being monitored at the customer level to deliver the expected value. Looking ahead, latency will likely be the future parameter around enabling several advanced use cases of 5G or network services. With that, we have invested heavily in our data centres, especially edge data centres designed to enable several mission-critical applications for our customers to ensure our platforms are capable of superior performance in supporting these applications. We are also committed to building an R&D talent pipeline through stc Academy and strengthening and accelerating our data-driven strategy around AI capabilities to provide best-in-class expertise, services, and solutions to our customers.
Leading strategic partnerships in different industries
stc’s vision is to create a reliable platform for the digital economy with leading world-class capabilities to enable and protect critical economic infrastructure in both government and private services. Catering to the growing demand for digital services while fulfilling stc’s DARE Strategy, which aims to foster digital transformation, pave new paths for development, and meet the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030, stc’s enterprise division has been actively engaged in implementing successful POCs for our customers across multiple verticals, ranging from oil and gas to transportation, ports to logistics, and more.
We were fortunate to launch our service when the Kingdom was preparing for a significant digital transformation and have been working towards developing new subsidiaries and verticals. For example, stc Group initiated several cloud partnerships to boost revenue from enterprise applications. We also formed an IoT subsidiary, “iot squared”, and a hosting company. Following a customer-centred strategy, stc Group has evolved from merely a traditional Internet provider to a group of diversified businesses and a full-fledged digital service provider with an extensive service offering.
To better serve our customers and drive industry development, stc Group has collaborated with leading technology vendors to develop different use cases around 5G. Following the footsteps of global operators and industry best practices, we initially started with the non-standalone network. Still, we later took the industry to the next level by moving on to the standalone 5G core, which is crucial for applications like high-speed machines and the ultra-low latency capabilities required in several advanced use cases.
To date, stc Group has developed over 15 advanced services applicable to different industries. We are currently focusing on three major sectors: smart cities, smart campuses, and smart ports. We aim to make smart cities more intelligent and deliver a differentiated experience to our customers. For 5G smart campus networks, we ensure that they are designed for 5G coverage with extremely low latency and the capacity to provide different services on campus. For smart ports, we help to address the unique challenges faced by stakeholders and customers.
Boasting diversified offerings and a strong track record
Our services span many domains, including civilian services, augmented reality-related services, advanced network monitoring, thermal detections, and many more. They are built on the latest technologies like AI, augmented reality, real-time data processing and edge computing. By leveraging 5G’s speed and latency and the innovative applications empowered by the latest digital technologies, stc Group enables enterprises to build several use cases to enhance efficiency and security while reducing the overall costs of running their businesses.
The MCIT Smart City Project is a major 5G initiative undertaken by stc Group for the Kingdom. The project aligns with the digital transformation goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to enable smart cities across KSA with 5G applications. It focuses on four key areas of applications: improvement of security, promotion of green environment, enrichment of life through live broadcasting, and enhancement of public service with unmanned vehicles. Leveraging ICT, 5G and AI, as well as massive IoT devices, the project has facilitated use cases, including AI-based CCTV using a 5G camera which has resulted in 50% fewer illegal events as compared to no-camera scenarios; Real-Time Multimedia Communication using 5G embedded body-worn camera which has seen a 40% reduction in use-of-force incidents by police agents; 4K Live Broadcast for cost-effective live broadcasting; remote-controlled smart inspection vehicles accessible via 5G which necessitates a decreased need for on-site patrols; as well as 5G accessed smart street lamps equipped with lighting management and environment detection to reduce energy consumption by 60% depending on capabilities.
In another major project, stc Group partnered with Huawei to build Dammam’s 5G Smart Port. Currently, the project focuses on four use cases: 5G smart CCTV + AI, 5G smart tally, 5G smart RTG crane, and forklift camera. It is built upon stc’s smart port integrated management platform with Intelligent Algorithm Service, Video Surveillance, Data Analysis and Security acting as the four pillars. Since enterprise security is a major concern in 5G deployment, this platform provides both application-based encryption and storage security. The Dammam 5G Smart Port has taken the lead in completing several 5G use case verification using the latest technologies, including 5G SA (Stand Alone) and MEC (Multi-access edge computing), demonstrating the value of 5G in meeting the digital requirement of various port business scenarios and changing the game in seaport operations. For example, with the 5G RTG remote control, the overall efficiency of RTG has been improved, and 2 million dollars have been saved for the fully automated port. These 5G applications have enhanced O&M efficiency by 30% and reduced accident risk by 50%.
Safeguarding cyber security on all fronts
Indeed, in light of growing cyber security threats, stc Group believes that security element needs to be addressed on multiple fronts. As digital adoption rises, cloud-based solutions grow, and IoT networks proliferate, the risks are even higher. In response, stc Group established sirar, a subsidiary dedicated to ensuring cyber security for our enterprise customers. We follow a highly robust and mature product life cycle covering all dimensions of cyber security across all levels, whether legacy services, new deployment, cloud or IoT. With 5G networks added to the mix, overall security can be further increased.
As members of multiple standards organisations, we have all the necessary security measures and controls within stc infrastructure to ensure our customers are protected and resilient against threats. Jointly with many enterprises, stc Group has also established a security standard mechanism to ensure network security and enterprise security. We are also continuously developing talent and expertise in different aspects of cyber security, like access control or threat intelligence, constituting a proactive and customer-centred approach towards mitigating attacks.
stc Group is moving steadily to enhance its local and regional leadership and global reputation. In line with its DARE strategy, we aim to realise further growth in digital transformation and other new, unconventional areas. Throughout our 5G journey, we have abided by the principle of always putting our customers’ interests first. We believe that this commitment to industry-leading innovation and dedication to our customers will radically transform not only the telecom business but also other industries while driving forward digitisation by enabling automation and smart cities with smart homes, smart parking, AVLs, automatic vehicle locations, and all other applications to bring greater dimension and richness to people’s lives – both personally and professionally..