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Saudi Arabia deepens 5G infrastructure for pilgrims

By Adeyemi Adepetun, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
04 February 2022   |   4:08 am
Pilgrims and visitors from Nigeria and other parts of the globe to Makkah, Saudi Arabia for the yearly pilgrimage and visits are to experience improved communication services as the country is increasing its investments in information and communications infrastructure.

(Photo by STR / AFP)

• Service to connect over 15 global operators around Makkah
• 5G technology to increase country’s GDP from $1.4b in 2021 to over $15b by 2030

Pilgrims and visitors from Nigeria and other parts of the globe to Makkah, Saudi Arabia for the yearly pilgrimage and visits are to experience improved communication services as the country is increasing its investments in information and communications infrastructure.

Specifically, Saudi Arabia said it would deepen the Fifth-Generation (5G) network infrastructure (mobile services) to create a modern and intelligent environment for destination visitors, residents and visitors of Makkah and other adjoining cities.

This was announced yesterday, at the LEAP 2022 technology and exhibition conference organised by the country’s Ministry of Communications Technology, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

With the target of connecting over 15 leading global telecoms operators, the project was formalised when Umm Al-Qura Development and Construction Company signed 15 years strategic partnership agreement with Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Company (ACES) for ACES to build 5G ICT Infrastructure in the entire stretch of MASAR Project.

The agreement was signed by ACES CEO, Dr. Akram Aburas and Umm Al-Qura Development and Construction Company (UAQ) represented by Abdul Mohsen Al-Bakr, Chief Development Officer.

With the signing of the project, ACES is committed to provide 5G mobile telecoms network service for the public area and thus supporting religious, social and commercial activities to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, visitors and local residents all year round. This initiative is in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and is also greatly supported by the MENA Venture Capital eWTP Arabia Capital and other partners.

Checks by The Guardian showed that in 2019 before COVID-19 pandemic, about 2.5 million Muslim faithful from across the globe entered Makkah, with some 23, 000 coming from Nigeria for the yearly prayer meetings.

eWTP Arabia Capital’s Managing Partner, Jerry Li, said: “ACES is the first local company we invested in Saudi Arabia in 2020 as we believe in the team’s capabilities and experience. Even though Aces is not a startup, their business is related to digital infrastructure, which is the most important area that the Kingdom needs, with huge potential market size. In addition, their qualifications and service capabilities are also unique in the market.

“In the past two years, they have won lots of major projects, proving their competitiveness in the industry. We are very optimistic regarding the company’s future growth and will continue to provide the company with the resources and the support they need. We will also spare no effort in further supporting the company for its global expansion with whatever resources they might need.”

CEO of ACES, Dr. Akram Aburas, confirmed that the agreement stipulated that the company will equip the infrastructure of the project to cover it with the latest modern and intelligent technologies to upgrade mobile services, secure better coverage and improve the user experience by raising mobile Internet speeds in the main and secondary roads of the project, tunnels, parking, the boulevard area and the services associated with the project.

From his perspective, Abdul Mohsen Al Bakr, CDO of UAQ, expressed his pleasure in partnering with ACES, which aimed to equip and develop infrastructure with the latest means of wireless communications.

Al Bakr stressed that the infrastructure of the destination has been designed to the highest standards of the modern destination industry to support the investment system, which includes many smart technical systems, all of which are connected to the main data center that covers all the needs of ICT, digital and innovative technologies that will be available in the destination, and will provide the space that requires telecommunications service providers to provide their services throughout the destination.

FURTHER, the Kingdom announced the launch of WiFi 6E, supported by the largest amount of spectrum available for WiFi of any country worldwide. The combination of state-of-the-art technology and record amount of spectrum will allow Saudi Arabia to benefit from the fastest achievable WiFi speeds globally (2.4 Gbps).

CITC said enabling this advanced connectivity is expected to quadruple WiFi’s overall contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP rising from $4.7 billion in 2021 to more than S$18 billion by 2030.

The Kingdom’s WiFi upgrade is to be accompanied by other connectivity-boosting initiatives, including the first regional trial of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology to extend reliable coverage to remote areas of the Kingdom. CITC will also hold a frequency auction during the first half of this year, a development which is likely to place Saudi first globally for spectrum available to fifth-generation (5G) networks and mobile communications. The contribution of 5G technology to GDP is expected to increase from $1.4 billion in 2021 to more than $15 billion by 2030.