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By Wang Man & Wu Wei Editor: Joyce Fan

MBB creates new opportunities

The first licensed 3G provider in Saudi Arabia, and the owner of one of the busiest 3G networks in the world, Mobily had come up with a strategy to utilize its 3G and HSPA+ data bandwidth in such a way that would not only set it apart from other operators, but also bring it into direct competition with fixed broadband DSL.

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When we looked at 3G and more importantly 3.5G, we knew that we could shift the goal posts. We wanted to shift the mobile data consumption conversation in the minds of consumers away from kilobytes to gigabytes.
Etihad Etisalat consortium, known by its trade name Mobily, was founded on May 25, 2005. As the second mobile operator in Saudi Arabia and first licensed 3G mobile provider in the kingdom, Mobily achieved its first one million subscribers in less than 90 days of beginning operations and ended its first year with around 2.35 million customers. In 2007, GSMAs statistics showed that Mobily had the busiest 3G network in the world. services as soon as possible to stay ahead in the mobile race, as HSPA offered a better alternative to both ADSL and WiMAX. When we looked at 3G and more importantly 3.5G, we knew that we could shift the goal posts, says Khalid Al-Kaf, CEO and Managing Director of Mobily, We wanted to shift the mobile data consumption conversation in the minds of consumers away from kilobytes to gigabytes, he adds.

Competitive market calls for strategy shift

In April 2007, Saudi Arabias Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) made two official announcements that were of great significance for the kingdoms telecommunication industry. The first was the issuance of a third mobile license. With the addition of a new mobile competitor and having been denied the opportunity to add fixed-line offerings to its portfolio, Mobily needed to rethink its strategy.

Enhance the network capacity

To implement its strategic direction and meet forecast demand, Mobily decided to build an HSPA network for high-speed mobile broadband and upgrade its core packet network system to handle large amounts of data traffic. Early experiences showed that the large-scale deployment of HSPA resulted in increasing data throughput in a short time, so Mobily knew it had to prepare for this data traffic. A large capacity and high throughput packet core is required to lay the foundation of various mobile broadband services.

A future featuring MBB and new services

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the largest volumes of demand for broadband Internet services among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. With a rapidly growing population of young consumers and increasing wealth, mobile broadband and multimedia services have become popular entertainment avenues. After thoroughly analyzing the situation, Mobily realized that it needed to launch large-scale HSPA

A solution for today, keeping tomorrow in mind

Mobily and Huawei first began working together in 2005, on the construction of a high performance radio and packet core network. To meet the new strategic objectives, and also to address the looming tactical challenges, an architecture working group was established in 2007 between Mobily and Huawei. This group evaluated a series of solutions to resolve possible bottlenecks caused by the high


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traffic of data services and unique traffic scenarios. The result of this was a decision to deploy Huaweis huge capacity and high performance packet core SingleEPC, which has five to ten times more capacity and throughput than traditional equipment. This core network was built to provide strong support for a large-scale HSPA rollout and ensure safe operation. The solution can also implement ser vice awareness and control, a flexible charging policy and bandwidth management, maximization of network resource utilization and increased revenue. Because the packet core can handle both 2G and 3G, it could optimize the network investment of Mobily, mining the potential of the 2G market and evolving the network to 3G smoothly and costeffectively.

Step by step, towards MBB success

On May 19, 2007, Mobilys launched its unlimited bundle at an affordable monthly charge of SAR350 (USD93), along with another two high-usage bundles, the 5GB and 1GB bundles for SAR200 and SAR100 respectively. As an indication of the popularity of the service and pent-up demand in the kingdom, Mobily signed up 50,000 users in the first few months. In November 2007, Mobily again selected Huawei to construct its next generation packet core, including constructing and upgrading a 3G/3.5G (HSPA) PS core network to support 100,000 HSPA subscribers with an average throughput of 55Kbps per subscriber during peak

hours (the actual usage by a single user can reach tens of Mbps). At the end of 2009, Mobily became the first operator to use HSPA+ in the region on its 3.75G network. The operator closed the year with one million customers subscribed to its high-usage bundles, and an overall customer base of 18.2 million. Mobilys HSPA network now covers 92% of all populated areas in the kingdom. In July 2010, Mobily saw a 40% growth in H1 net profit. The growth of Q2 revenues was attributed to the increase in broadband revenues and postpaid customers. According to the annual report of CITC, the number of Saudi Arabias mobile broadband subscribers rose 488% to 1.41 million during that time. Of these, 51% were MBB users, while 47% used ADSL. Till end of 2010, Mobily carried a daily average of 80 terabytes of data transfer, up by more than 200% over the past 12 months, and 9Gbps of peak-time throughput with 90% growth rate yearby-year. By leveraging Huawei HSPA offerings and unified packet core SingleEPC, the Saudi Arabian operator was able to reinforce its leading position in the MBB market, with a share of more than 70%, comprising of more than two million MBB subscribers, by the end of 2010. Mobily is currently the biggest 3G mobile operator in the Middle East. Over a period of three years since 2007, Mobily has built up a flourishing mobile broadband business through HSPA. In the coming three years, Mobily aims to strengthen its leadership in broadband services and applications, as a pioneer in this technology in the Middle East, in line with global trends in mobile communications.
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