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KSA showcasing global leadership in 5G experience delivery

December 26, 2020

Over the past two years, Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of the regional 5G landscape and has displayed leadership — both in number of 5G subscribers as well as 5G coverage of the population. The Saudi 5G users have been experiencing a great 5G experiences (in terms of both high bandwidth and low latency) and the telcos are accordingly raking in much higher ARPUs over 5G as compared to 4G.

These results are now visible even at the international level where KSA’s 5G investments are resulting in dominant positions in global rankings. In the just released report by OpenSignal (December 2020), KSA has stood on the second rank globally — and first within the Arab world — (amongst the 15 leading 5G markets surveyed) on a host of parameters.

As these above finding show, users in Saudi Arabia are receiving the second highest real world 5G download speed (at 272.8 Mpbs) — behind only South Korea (which is enjoying 351.2 Mbps). This has ensured that the Saudi users experience the second highest bandwidth improvement — that by a factor of 9.1 times — which using their 5G services as compared to 4G.

This too is only behind Thailand’s 14.7 times improvement. Thus, from whichever angle it is evaluated, the Saudi 5G layout has established a formidable legacy and stamped its authority on the global footprint.

It has taken a lot of planning and efforts from the telco stakeholders in Saudi Arabia to be able to foster such a dominant 5G position on the global map. Right from a supportive regulatory framework, to committed and proactive operators — all participants have played a part in this success.

A few key reasons that have propelled Saudi 5G to its current position are analyzed here:

Generous Spectrum Allocations and Release

The Saudi operators were amongst the first wave globally to receive their 5G spectrums. Following an auction in March 2019, the regulator, Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) allocated equal amounts 100 MHz spectrum in the C-band range (between 3.4GHz – 3.8GHz) to all the three operator. This band is best suited for 5G development.

Supportive Regulatory Regime

In December 2018, the royalty fee that the telcos pay to the government was reduced from 15% to 10%. The fee reduction simulated the telcos to invests in expanding their infrastructure and make it ‘5G ready’ suitably meet the growing demands for broadcast in the Kingdom.

Proactive Experience Tracking & Reporting

The CITC has inaugurated the ‘Meqyas’ is an initiative to proactively study, track and report on the various telecom parameters (such as total download bandwidth, gaming latency, network coverage etc.) from across the Kingdom. These reports, published quarterly, analyse Saudi Arabia's fixed and mobile broadband performance and thus motivate the telcos to perform better — thus improving the overall service quality across the Kingdom.

Competitive and Consumer Benefit Tariffs – Simulating Healthily Competition

The KSA has a very healthy and competitive tariff regime where the consumers are the ultimate winners. The telcos have been offering new innovative tariff structures to the consumer – moving away from offering only ‘connectivity’ to offering ‘experiences’ – loaded with video and gaming bundles.

Further, the telcos are also launching 5G plans with multiple contract durations which is allowing users from all segments to enjoy the services — by easing the pressure on long commitments.

All these above factors have ensured that the Saudi 5G roll-out can be considered successful and offers insights to be replicated elsewhere.

The key drivers — as learnt from the Saudi analysis — for an effective 5G deployment is to develop sophisticated and richer consumer offers, backed up by high-performance networks and rapid, accurate service provisioning.