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Saudi Arabian operator Zain KSA has selected Nokia Siemens Networks as its mobile broadband infrastructure and services vendor for Jeddah. The operator aims to address the growing demand for mobile broadband and smart phone data services by re farming its 1800 MHz GSM frequency band to offer 4G services.  cell2


As part of the contract, Nokia Siemens Networks will also manage Zain’s 4G network in Jeddah, in addition to the operator’s existing GSM and 3G networks in the city. “The upsurge in smart phone usage is putting a huge pressure on networks, while also increasing customers’ service expectations,” says Ahmed AlGhanmi, deputy chief technology officer at Zain KSA.


“We are confident that this engagement will help us offer a superior 4G experience at a fast pace,” says AlGhanmi. Spectrum re farming is becoming a huge trend across the world, primarily since spectrum is a limited resource and re farming offers huge cost benefits, says Dany Choueiry, customer team head at Nokia Siemens Networks. “This contract will enable the operator to maximize the benefits of existing 1800 MHz GSM band by offering LTE services, making it move well ahead of the curve in a fiercely competitive market environment.”

Due to the lack of harmonised frequency spectrum in KSA, vendors such as Nokia Siemens need to turn to technical innovation to solve performance issues associated with fragmented spectrum. The 1800MHz GSM bands are good candidates for supporting additional LTE capacity and also support harmonisation, once re-farming and unused spectrum is made available.

The 1800MHz spectrum is seen as better candidate by the GSMA for replacing the previous 2.6GHz band allocation provided to STC and Mobily. However, since the 1800MHz spectrum is in constant use today by GSM devices in KSA, additional layers of complexity are required by Nokia Siemens’ RAN technology to manage radio channel allocation across two separate networks.

Zain will be hoping to achieve a competitive edge over rivals STC and Mobily, which have limited scope TD-LTE deployments operating in the 2.5 and 2.3GHz spectrum. Users should have a considerably better performance experience with the full LTE technology.

The vendor will provide its Single RAN (radio access network) platform, based on the compact, energy efficient Flexi Multi radio Base Station for 4G deployment and 3G network modernization. Optimized back haul will be provided by FlexiPacket Microwave platform.

As part of the contract, Nokia Siemens will upgrade and expand Zain’s legacy Home Location Register (HLR) to the latest One NDS subscriber data management solution, supporting a total of 25 million subscribers’ mobile services, including 4G. This solution will allow Zain to meet market demands, cover capacity requirements and generate operational savings.


Nokia Siemens will also provide its NetAct platform for monitoring, management and optimization of Zain’s LTE network. Using its professional services capabilities, the vendor will manage the operator’s 4G network, in addition to GSM and 3G networks in Jeddah, and will provide network implementation services.

By Angela Sutherland

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