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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, stc Group Chief Carrier and Wholesale Officer Eng. Mohammed Al-Abbadi elaborated on how stc is taking concrete actions to ensure that it will continue to provide world-class connectivity and drive the digital transformation of the MENA region and beyond.

How does stc plan to continually invest and expand its capacity and coverage beyond the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while maintaining its reputation as one of the best wholesale operators?

As a digital communications leader, stc is always looking at ways to further enrich our customers’ lives by improving and growing our capabilities. Through our DARE strategy, we focused on pushing connectivity boundaries and daring to go further. Our continuous global expansion has played a key role in maintaining our reputation as one of the leading wholesale operators in the region.

We recently launched center3, which aims to build an integrated ecosystem of cables and data centers that seeks to attract hyperscalers, big data, and local and international service providers focused on developing an advanced digital ecosystem for cloud and content providers by integrating a network of submarine cables with our footprint of regional data centers. We have invested in 16 subsea cables globally, aiming to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s position as a regional and international data exchange hotspot and its ambition to become a regional digital hub. center3 is the largest provider of telecom infrastructure in the region, offering 300 MW (by 2023) of evolving data center capacity distributed across the Kingdom.

Our global subsea network and diversified internet infrastructure extend our reach across the MENA region. We are delivering services for the region via 32 terabits/second of ultra-high capacity globally.

This is complemented by our voice infrastructure and business relationships (400+ bilateral agreements), which support a regional mobile customer base, including millions of pilgrims and tourists.

stc is driving digital transformation and, in turn, becoming a digital communication leader in the MENA region.

What is your outlook on wholesale business growth in the Middle East region? What will stc's key role be in this?

Against a backdrop of rapid global digital transformation and an even more accelerated pace in Saudi Arabia, stc is taking concrete actions to ensure it can provide world-class connectivity and drive the digital transformation of the MENA region and beyond.

In stc’s carrier and wholesale sector, we are focused on driving this digital transformation through four key growth areas: existing asset monetization, network expansion, adjacency exploration and unconventional offerings.

We are finding ways to unlock the value of our current assets by driving the uptake of our existing products and services. We constantly explore opportunities to enable our customers to reach their end users through mobility solutions, such as national roaming and fixed solutions, to drive more uptake on Fiber to the X (FTTx) and other data services. 

Network expansion plans remain a key focus in our strategy, which includes exploring network expansion opportunities to scale up our core network and reach new markets and geographies within the Kingdom and internationally by pursuing the expansion of data centers, international connectivity and national terrestrial networks.

Leveraging our existing capabilities, we have ventured into new adjacent markets to serve our existing customers with new services. This had been achieved by enriching IoT propositions with differentiated pricing, connectivity management and data control, and by offering new value-added services to Virtual Network Operators (VNOs) (e.g., content, gaming, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), etc.).

We have also explored growth through more unconventional offerings. We are pursuing selected alternative opportunities to diversify our revenues and customer base, which we plan to demonstrate by developing new digital solutions to tap into new growth areas and by launching Air to Ground (A2G) connectivity services, the first of their kind in the region to provide broadband in-flight connectivity.

As a group, we are exploring a 360-degree growth strategy and are moving ahead to identify and develop new solutions, new technologies and new ways to enrich our customers’ lives.

Can you share the milestones achieved by stc's carrier and wholesale business in 2022?

stc has achieved great strides in the field of wholesale services. Key milestones over the last twelve months include the launch of center3, one of stc’s largest and most significant projects, as I mentioned earlier.

The launch of the Saudi Vision Cable project was another key milestone for stc. As part of our initiatives to support the Kingdom's Vision 2030, the project connects 4 landing stations (Jeddah, Yanbu, Duba and Haql) and one of the recent subsea investments owned by stc, which aims to provide access to all submarine cable stations across the Red Sea.

Another key moment for us in 2022 was bringing five additional international content providers and three cloud companies to Saudi Arabia. These efforts will lead to reduced application download times and increased video streaming quality while ensuring a smoother, more responsive gaming experience for national subscribers.

Today, we are very proud to see stc deliver on its mission to connect the world through technology.

What advancements has stc integrated into its comprehensive and evolving wholesale portfolio?

As a digital communications leader providing world-class connectivity, we are always evaluating disruptive technologies and trends to incorporate them into our wholesale portfolio. We have launched several projects locally in alignment with the Saudi digital transformation initiatives, such as the open access projects, where we partnered with our fellow Saudi telecom providers to guarantee the provision of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband services.

stc uses best-in-class technology and infrastructure to lead the way in enabling the world to connect and has greenfield opportunities in areas such as smart cities infrastructure, 5G technology, private networks, edge computing, industrial IoT/M2M, connected cars, autonomous systems, multi-cloud infrastructure, green DC initiatives, etc. We are focused on expanding our services further, reinforcing our role in digital communications and positioning Saudi Arabia as a major digital hub for the region.

We aim to sustain our growth while asserting our market leadership through superior core offerings and an increasingly digital customer experience. At stc, enriching lives is our mission. We are committed to improving the customer journey and increasing customer satisfaction.

To deliver the best customer experience, we work closely with our customers, hand-in-hand, in every development stage of our product life cycle, to help them fulfill their objectives and reach their goals. We believe that success comes from customer involvement, which establishes a strong foundation of trust, value, and loyalty. Our customers’ feedback and insights are essential to developing our current wholesale portfolio and unlocking new areas of growth in the new digital economy.

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