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In the heart of Saudi Arabia, the annual Hajj pilgrimage not only represents a time of deep spiritual reflection and communal worship, but also a period that demands exceptional connectivity to support the millions of Muslims who gather from around the world.

During the sacred days of Hajj, stc Group's role transcends the provision of network services, it becomes the lifeline that connects pilgrims with their loved ones and supports their spiritual journey. With the deployment of robust network infrastructure, stc Group has emerged as a cornerstone of the pilgrimage's success, enabling pilgrims to share their profound experiences in real-time with their families across the globe.

stc Group's Pioneering Connectivity: A Chronicle of Service Excellence During Hajj

stc Group's commitment to world-class communication services is reflected in its consistent delivery of high-quality services. Over the past five years, the Group’s innovative solutions have not only enriched the pilgrims' experience but have also underscored Saudi Arabia's commitment to technological advancement.

The 2019 Hajj season marked a technological milestone for stc Group with the successful launch of its 5G network, providing pilgrims with unprecedented Wi-Fi access at key locations such as the Holy Mosque and surrounding camps. The impact was immediate and laudable, with Ookla recognizing stc as the "fastest mobile network" in Saudi Arabia. Over 761,000 customers, including a significant 251,000 international roamers, reaped the benefits of this enhanced connectivity. Despite a 39% increase in data traffic, stc Group maintained an impressive network success rate of over 99.7%.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 presented unforeseen challenges, dramatically scaling down the Hajj to just 1,000 participants. stc Group swiftly adapted, supplying 4,765 critical communication devices to support government ministries and emergency services. The expansion of TETRA and push-to-talk services ensured that, despite the pandemic's constraints, communication remained immediate and reliable across essential locations.

Despite ongoing pandemic challenges in 2021, stc Group enhanced its digital services, leading to a 4% growth in digital transactions. Data traffic surged, especially during Eid al-Adha, with messaging and social media applications experiencing significant spikes in usage. The network adeptly managed a significant rise in data traffic, with substantial increases in international communications to countries such as Yemen, Sudan, and Egypt by over 990% at peak times.

With the return of one million pilgrims in 2022, stc's infrastructure underwent its first major post-pandemic test. The Group responded by expanding its network with additional communication towers and 1,942 Wi-Fi access points, significantly boosting coverage and capacity. In partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Health, stc Group launched the "Holodoctor" service, leveraging 5G for 3D video medical consultations. This innovation, alongside drone security, network monitoring, and AR services, marked a new era of tech-integrated pilgrimage support.

In 2023, stc solidified its position as the region’s premier digital enabler by ensuring the readiness of the digital infrastructure in Makkah and the Grand Mosque. With over 1,000 5G network sites and 1,964 Wi-Fi access points, stc significantly enhanced the digital experience for pilgrims. The 2023 Hajj season recorded a 39% increase in international users and a 196% surge in 5G network usage. Furthermore, stc ensured emergency preparedness by deploying over 1,000 specialized team members and establishing 34 maintenance centres.

2022 Coverage: ICT in Saudi: Digital Infrastructure at This Year’s Hajj Fully Supported by 5G Networks

Forging Connections: The 2024 Mega Campaign

As 2024 Hajj season approaches, stc Group is preparing to redefine communication for pilgrims with its innovative "Forgotten Telephone Booths" campaign. These contemporary booths, blending a sense of nostalgia with modern day technology, will be strategically placed across Arafat 1, Arafat 2, Mina 4, and in the main tent, offering pilgrims not just faster and more reliable connectivity but also a comforting sense of familiarity. Pilgrims will be greeted by on-site promoters who will assist them in connecting with loved ones, limiting calls to 10 minutes to ensure broad access to all pilgrims.

Manasik and Miqat: Tailored Communication Services

"specialized by stc," the critical communications arm of stc Group, launched two bespoke services, Manasik and Miqat,  developed to cater to the unique demands of the Hajj season. Manasik, leveraging an LTE network, provides pilgrims with instant, secure, and reliable communication, featuring push-to-talk, emergency calls, messaging, navigation, and international connectivity. Designed for scale, it ensures seamless communication for large events, supported by extensive coverage and customer support.

Miqat, on the other hand, offers a robust TETRA network for companies, ensuring continuous communication flow with features like full-duplex calls, group broadcasts, and emergency services. Both services prioritize security, reliability, and efficiency, becoming indispensable tools for maintaining seamless operations during the sacred pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah.

Network Optimization: A Commitment to Excellence

stc Group is at the forefront of network optimization, employing AI and machine learning for a Self-Optimizing Network that autonomously boosts efficiency and capacity, particularly vital during the Hajj pilgrimage. This initiative has earned stc six Ookla Speedtest awards and involves enhancing data throughput, expanding 2G capacity, and refining transmission features to serve both real-time applications and legacy devices better. The group's proactive approach to 5G, including traffic management and advanced radio transmission, ensures high-quality, congestion-free service. stc's commitment to world-class communication services not only facilitates seamless Hajj experiences but also underscores its dedication to global connectivity and digital empowerment, setting the stage for continued success in 2024 and beyond.

Conclusion: stc Group's Enduring Legacy

As the custodian of connectivity during Hajj, stc Group's historical leadership in network services is a testament to its unwavering commitment to excellence. The Group’s integration of state-of-the-art technology and personalized digital solutions significantly enhances the Hajj experience and exemplifies Saudi Arabia's dedication to technological innovation, reflecting the nation’s aspirations for the future. As a beacon of digital enablement, stc Group continues to empower millions, year after year, transforming the Hajj experience into a journey that is as connected as it is sacred.

Read More: stc Group's Q1 2024 Success: Strong Growth, Expansion Plans in Motion

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