Wednesday 8 April 2020

Zain Achieves Goal of 5G Leadership in Middle East & Africa Region

Zain is a leading mobile voice and data services operator with a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and African countries with a workforce of over 6,000 providing a comprehensive range of mobile voice and data services to over 49.5 million active individual and business customers as of Dec 31, 2019.

Some observations from its 2019 Annual Report:

Described as their flagship operation Kuwait maintained its market leadership, with its customer base growing 7% during the course of a highly productive year that saw Zain Kuwait invest USD 209 million representing 19% of its revenue in CAPEX during 2019. As the first operator to launch commercial 5G services in the country in June 2019, Zain Kuwait triumphantly rolled out numerous innovative digital services to enterprises and individual customers, attaining the largest market share of 5G customers in Kuwait.

In Saudi Arabia Zain serves 7.6 million customers and has recorded  its highest ever financial results since its establishment. The rollout of the largest commercial 5G network in the region combined with expansion of Fiber to the Home services and the launch of numerous data monetization initiatives were instrumental to its successful turnaround. The operator made significant CAPEX
investments of USD 512 million, representing 23% of its revenues during the year, aimed at
perpetuating the successful digital transformation process underway in the Kingdom.

In Iraq the operator’s focus on customer experience, services expansion across the country and
cost transformation, combined with growth of data and digital revenue and customer loyalty initiatives serve 15.7 million customers. Discussions are ongoing regarding the granting of 4G spectrum, and Zain are hopeful and ready to rollout 4G services to the Iraqi consumers, to help the country's socioeconomic development.

Despite the country’s many socio-economic issues during 2019 including currency devaluation, Zain Sudan continued to perform well. The operation serves the largest customer base in the Group with 15.9 million customers, growing 9% over the year, making it the largest within the Group. It was very pleasing to see Zain Sudan report net profit growth in USD terms during 2019, it is hoped that the currency stabilizes so further growth is reported in USD terms.

The operation in Jordan is maintaining its market leadership serving 3.6 million customers with stable revenues and improved net income that grew 5% during 2019. Zain Jordan invested USD 43 million in CAPEX during 2019 predominantly on its nuclear grade data center, named ‘The Bunker’ as well
as 4G and Fiber to the Home expansion. They are planning the rollout of 5G commercial services, once the spectrum is attained.


Zain Group announced that its Zain Drone subsidiary has become the first drone services provider in the region to receive the internationally recognized ISO 9001:2015 certification with respect to its quality management system (QMS).

ISO 9001 specifies requirements for a QMS standard reached by organizations to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide services that meet customer and regulatory requirements, and to create operational efficiencies by aligning and streamlining processes throughout the organization.

The certification is seen as the next step in Zain establishing itself as a leading drone-as-a-service provider in the Middle East region. This is a potentially important new business area for telecommunications providers as, among other opportunities, it could allow them to help organizations to benefit from the Internet of Things (IoT) and, by extension, to leverage 5G rollout for their drone services.

The multiple uses of drones include gathering and assessment of image data, automated stock-taking, and replacing physical inspections with digital inspections, thus reducing human error and, in the case of drone-based oil rig inspections for example, reducing the chance of human injury.

Zain has achieved its goal to be the first operator in the region to launch a commercial 5G network. The operator has a commitment to providing a state-of-the-art network offering advanced mobile services and better customer experience, during 2019 Zain rolled out thousands of 5G sites across Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Bahrain began rolling out 5G sites in December 2019. Zain is keen to benefit from the advantages driven by 5G, including massive machine-to-machine communication (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low latency communications. Zain Group launched 5G services in the 3.5 GHz band, which is part of the global 5G  frequency standard, leveraging advanced technology in Massive MIMO Active Antenna, backhauled capacity of 10Gbps Fiber Optics, and advanced E-band links, supported by virtual core functions to provide high throughput enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services  to customers.

During 2019, Zain acquired or renewed over 600 MHz of the frequency spectrum across markets in various bands at an acquisition commitment price of nearly USD 300 million. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the allocation of these spectrum bands has facilitated the launch of 5G services as is the case with Bahrain that will soon launch 5G. They were the first operator in the region to offer 5G roaming between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia back in November 2019.

Also in 2019, Zain focused intensively on launching 5G Core (Non-Standalone), which is the first step towards a Next Generation Core. The company started to deploy new solutions that will cater to 5G services in the coming years. Multi-Access Edge Computing is an example of such deployments, where the traffic can now be moved to the edge of the network, closer to the consumer, rather than the earlier approach where it was kept centralized. This will significantly minimize latency, which will better serve future 5G services that require very low latency. Preparations are also ongoing for the Next Generation Core based on Standalone technology, which will also allow network slicing, which will be essential for enterprises.

The adoption of 5G continues to grow at an impressive rate of over 50% month-on-month, Zain operations are able to monitor and improve the quality of service to customers based on data usage patterns, habits and experience to ensure effective network rollout.

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