Finland-based device manufacturer Nokia and Saudi operator STC have signed an agreement to expand high-speed mobile broadband capacity and coverage in Saudi Arabia, using Nokia’s 4.5G technology. The enhanced network will meet the ever-increasing demands of subscribers across the country, including the millions of pilgrims who visit the cities of Mecca and Medina each year, particularly during the Hajj and Ramadan seasons. Nokia has already completed the first phase of the deployment in Mecca and Medina. Using 4.5G technology, including Saudi Arabia’s first indoor small-cell deployment, STC managed the huge traffic demands during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, which during peak times recorded an increase in 4G traffic of 600 percent over 2015 levels.
Nokia will continue to deploy its 4.5G macro and small-cell radio access network and microwave packet radio technology to provide ubiquitous coverage and faster access to the internet across the country. This will allow STC to launch new services and expand the delivery of VoLTE to more subscribers. The agreement continues a long history of collaboration between Nokia and STC. Nokia has defined a path to 5G that allows leading operators such as STC to take advantage of major increases in speed and capacity where and when they need it using 4.5G, 4.5G Pro and 4.9G technologies.
While 5G technology is in the works, there is much to be said for the promotion and development of intermediate network technologies, faster than 4G, as they can be a major help to MNOs in handling increased data traffic. This example from Saudi Arabia is telling—the country is seeing a tremendous increase in demand on its networks, driven by the surge in travel due to Islamic pilgrimages. A 600 percent year-over-year increase in 4G traffic demands a solution, and STC’s partnership with Nokia is a fitting response to the problem. Nokia’s 4.5G (and even 4.9G) technology will enable the operator to appropriately serve its subscribers and those who roam on its network, while still blazing a trail toward the eventual 5G mobile world. It also places STC in the competitive position of being in the lead in terms of network development in Saudi Arabia. Another interesting point about this example is that it shows how seasonal traffic spikes can be so large as to essentially redefine a national market.