WinWin Issue 42


By Tiago Rocha
Chief Marketing Officer, Zain KSA
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5GtoH, Redefining New Concept of Home Broadband

-- Zain is a pioneer of mobile telecommunications in the Middle East. They believe 5G will be the key enabler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's (KSA's) Vision 2030. Pursuant to this vision, Zain has made significant advancements in leveraging 5G's speed and also in terms of utilization of the network.

Zain KSA first rolled out 5G in 2019, becoming the first to fully launch a commercial 5G network in the country. It was a landmark achievement as we launched our network in 27 cities across the country on a single day, with 2600 sites going live simultaneously. Since then, we have been pursuing an exciting journey in 5G covering new sites and adding new customers.

Currently, we have a presence in 53 cities, enabled by around 5000 active 5G sites. In some cities, our 5G traffic is already higher than that of 4G. Back in February this year, we reached a very important milestone by launching our first 5G standalone live test, achieving 2.4 Gbps of throughput during a major event hosted in KSA. We are also advancing on carrier aggregation by leveraging Huawei MetaAAU.

In response to the developments in 5G, Zain KSA has been honored with several industry awards, including the Best 5G User Growth Award in 2021. We have also been singled out by leading benchmarking agencies like Open Signal and Ookla in categories such as the best 5G network, fastest 5G network, best video experience, best gaming experience, and so on.

In fact, the FWA segment has been growing 100% YoY since 2019, and we expect this growth to continue or even double in the coming months. All of this is driven by Zain's innovative strategies designed to scale up adoption and address customer requirements.

5GtoH: Redefining the concept of home broadband the Zain way

Fixed wireless access (FWA) is a strong area of focus for Zain KSA. Of our total customer base of 9 million, almost 1.1 million belong to the FWA category. In fact, the FWA segment has been growing 100% YoY since 2019, and we expect this growth to continue or even double in the coming months. All of this is driven by Zain's innovative strategies designed to scale up adoption and address customer requirements. This, in turn, helps us monetize 5G more effectively and earn the best value from services. Our 5G FWA strategy delivers on five key demands: reliable & fast Internet, stable Wi-Fi at home, flexible tariff offerings, innovative services, and high-quality devices. These strategies also align with our business goals, allowing us to realize higher average revenue per user (ARPU) with 5G — around 30% more compared to 4G.

Although Zain does not have a vast footprint in fiber, in a way, we still directly compete with the local fiber to the home (FTTH) players. In 5G FWA, customers tend to have higher expectations on the reliability and speed delivered by 5G, so delivering on this promise is the first and foremost prerequisite in monetizing 5G for the home segment. With 5G, Zain KSA has been able to increase the average speed 10 by times compared to 4G. Nowadays, in most of the cities in KSA, we are delivering an average of around 250 Mbps of speed per customer per month, compared to around 25 Mbps with 4G. We also see there is a significant rise in the network usage, not only due to the impact of the pandemic, but also because of the better experience offered by 5G network. This has led to a sudden increase in data traffic — almost three times including customers who just migrated from 4G to 5G. Indeed, this is going to put some pressure on return on investment (ROI) in the initial stages.

Second, there is a need to focus closely on indoor coverage to deliver stable Wi-Fi experiences at home. This is very important for KSA because the majority of residential structures in the country are horizontal, not vertical. There are very large households, many of which are villas, making it more challenging to give customers the required experience, at least of the quality delivered by fiber. To ensure this, we have bundled customer-premises equipment (CPE) together with a Wi-Fi-mesh extender in the majority of our 5G offerings, allowing customers to get good Wi-Fi coverage in every room. We also offer a 5G Home Premium package that includes a 5G outdoor router with Wi-Fi-mesh extender to address the even higher demands from premium customers for indoor coverage.

The third consideration is the tariff. Since 5G is a new technology, customers expect greater flexibility in selecting the plan in the beginning, before moving up the ladder as the demand increases. Accordingly, we have designed three unlimited data plans, based on the download speeds. They are: 5G Home Basic with 100 Mbps download speed, 5G Home with 200 Mbps download speed, and 5G Home Premium Online plan with unlimited upload and download speeds. In addition, there is 5G Home Movies plan with 200 Mbps download speed along with free movie subscriptions from popular content platforms. We also provide the flexibility to choose the contract length, including two years, one year, or even no contract.

Fourth, it is extremely important that we deliver innovative services, especially in terms of content across video streaming, cloud gaming, music, esports, and more. With this, we are also able to reach out to diverse customers with varying needs. We have learnt much from our peers in China, Korea, and Thailand in this regard. The 5G Movie package is one such offering wherein we bundle free movie subscriptions from leading over the top (OTT) streaming platforms like OSN+ and Starz Play, among others. Meanwhile, as gaming gains huge popularity in KSA, we have launched the 5G Home + Cloud gaming device bundle that allows customers to opt for a gaming console like VR glasses, a smart home device, or even a tablet. We were also the first in the country to introduce a family package that combines a 5G home proposition with mobile. This offer comes with a tariff structure combining the FWA with the voice lines, enabling significant savings for customers. We have also launched several attractive promotional offers during special seasons, in addition to the regular promotions that we engage in to build a positive impression about our brand and its offerings.

Next, we need to focus on the quality of the devices. With 5G, it's obvious that the quality of the device directly impacts customer experience. Indeed, an underperforming device will jeopardize the quality of the 5G network, leading to poor customer experience and unfulfilled service-level agreements (SLAs). As such, we are committed to delivering the best quality indoor access equipment to suit our 5G customers. Whether it's part of the bundled offer or standalone CPEs, or even gaming consoles or tablets, we will ensure that they meet the industry standards and specs required to deliver the 5G service at the required level.

While focusing on the above five crucial components, Zain KSA also engages in industry-wide partnerships that align with the company's mission to deliver the best connectivity experience as well as the content the customers search for. The partnership with content providers is an important milestone in our services. In addition to the partnerships with three important video streaming platforms in the region, we have also been associated with LG Uplus for innovative TV content and Nvidia for cloud gaming services through GeForce Now. This is important for Zain KSA, especially considering the growing traction around esports and cloud gaming in KSA. We were the first in the country to launch cloud gaming, which we are also providing in other countries in the region, including Jordan and Oman. Zain KSA was ranked first in the Game Mode report issued by Saudi regulator CITC for the first quarter of 2021, recording top connectivity performance in four of the most popular video games: Fortnite, FIFA 21, Apex Legends, and Dota 2. We launched the 'Zain Esports' brand, marking the beginning of a year-long calendar of large and exciting regional online esports tournaments comprised of multiple flagship events as well as smaller, regular community tournaments with attractive cash and device prize pools to boost the online game ecosystem.

To sum up, Zain KSA's success is drawn on our proposition: we don't sell just connectivity, we sell very good connectivity with amazing experience, and we don't sell just the content, we sell very good content and the right content that customers are looking for.

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