Charting new horizons: stc group’s biggest-ever 5G network expansion plan unveiled

Company aims to boost the digital economy in Saudi, enhance local content
Charting new horizons: stc group’s biggest-ever 5G network expansion plan unveiled
stc group's ambitious plan for unprecedented growth

stc group has unveiled its plans for the most extensive expansion of the 5G network ever recorded. Substantial investments will be allocated towards the development and expansion of the existing network, aiming to cover over 75 cities and governorates in Saudi Arabia. This ambitious project builds upon the group’s previous success in deploying 5G network technologies to more than 90 percent of its locations in major urban centers. The investments undertaken by stc group will play a crucial role in advancing and expanding the network, fostering the growth of the digital economy, supporting local content, generating high-quality employment opportunities, and digitally enriching people’s lives. These endeavors align perfectly with the group’s overarching strategy for expansion and growth.

Since 2006, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has experienced a remarkable digital transformation, which served as a significant milestone for its people. The introduction of the third-generation network (3G) by the Saudi Telecom Company, now known as stc group, allowed individuals to access the Internet through their mobile phones (prior to the advent of smartphones). This pivotal moment initiated the journey towards enabling digital transformation in the country.

How all this began

The journey began in the late 1990s with the provision of Internet services via the first-generation networks (1G and 2G). This breakthrough allowed homes, businesses, and Internet cafes to connect to the Internet for the very first time in the Kingdom’s history. The subsequent introduction of 4G services in 2011 further enhanced the user experience, enabling live video streaming and providing access to a more extensive range of robust applications. This progression marked the continuation of the Internet’s generational advancements.

The current mega project, aimed at expanding the 5G network, stands as a testament to the achievements made thus far and represents the resounding success of this transformative journey.

Significant milestone

In 2018, stc group launched the 5G network, marking a significant milestone that initiated a historic transformation in communications and information technology in the Kingdom and the region. The MENA region’s development standards differed from the rest, making it the first commercial launch of the 5G network. This event began a new era, where physical and digital technology boundaries are blurred at blazing speeds with near-zero response time. Currently, stc group is working towards achieving digital transformation at every level, being the most prominent leader of the ICT sector in the region. The group is currently carrying out the most extensive expansion of their 5G network. This initiative aims to enhance the infrastructure, making it more robust and advanced than ever, thus promising to enrich the user experience. The 5G network is the beating heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine education, and a significant driver of national digital transformation. So, how will this historic expansion strengthen the 5G market, sustainability, and local content? 

“Dare” strategy and the 5G expansion in 2023

In 2019, stc group provided 5G service to over 35 percent of the population in five major cities of Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah, and Dammam. The following year, the coverage was expanded to encompass 75 cities nationwide. The expansion of the 5G network continued at an accelerated pace, driven by stc group’s “Dare” strategy, which focused on four key pillars: expanding in size and scope, enhancing the user experience, digitizing stc, and delivering faster performance.

By 2022, the proportion of mobile sites equipped with 5G services exceeded 90 percent in major cities, marking a significant milestone in the network’s development. Additionally, to ensure greater capacity and improved coverage, the introduction of a second carrier in the 2300 MHz band took place in Riyadh and Jeddah. This enhancement further strengthened the infrastructure and provided an enhanced user experience in these areas.

In the present year, the group has undertaken its most ambitious expansion yet. It has made significant investments in upgrading its existing 5G network to an advanced 5G network across all its towers in the five major cities. This strategic move is geared towards enhancing the quality of services and creating new opportunities for both retail and business customers. Furthermore, this expansion reinforces stc group’s prominent role as the foremost digital enabler in the region.

Sustainability impact

stc group is deeply committed to providing cutting-edge digital solutions and technologies in order to keep pace with the global demand for digital advancement. The company also recognizes the importance of enhancing energy efficiency, which is a crucial element of its strategic sustainability approach across all operations and subsidiaries. Despite the challenge of expanding its business while consuming energy, stc group is steadfast in its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In pursuit of this goal, the company focuses on implementing energy-efficient and renewable solutions for over 16,000 towers involved in the ongoing 5G expansion.

In 2022, TAWAL, the tower-based subsidiary of stc group, achieved a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This accomplishment was made possible through a strong emphasis on innovation and the adoption of eco-friendly practices. The cumulative reduction in emissions amounted to approximately 30 percent compared to the baseline measurement.

Despite the expansion of its tower network to over 16,000, TAWAL has successfully reduced the number of diesel-powered plants from 1,718 to 1,045.


Local content development

With a focus on fostering local content development, stc group is expanding the 5G network while considering technical, financial, and environmental aspects. This expansion aims to shift from technology consumption to technology production, laying the foundation for future businesses that thrive on integrated digital empowerment. Strengthening the digital economy of Saudi Arabia stands as a key long-term objective of this expansion.

TAWAL, in its commitment to enhancing the involvement of local resources, has implemented various internal strategies and has surpassed a participation rate of 69 percent. As a recognition of its efforts, TAWAL has been awarded the Local Content Certificate by the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority.

The expansion of the 5G network is expected to bring about several positive outcomes. The high speeds provided by this technology will facilitate the growth of digital projects, leading to increased benefits. InspireU, an accelerator affiliated with stc group, is dedicated to providing advanced technical solutions for incubated projects, including leveraging the potential of the 5G network. The contributions of inspireU have resulted in a market value of investments and financial transactions for incubated projects exceeding 12 billion SAR. Furthermore, these startup ventures have generated over 600,000 direct and indirect job opportunities. Additionally, the entrepreneurial projects supported by inspireU have positively impacted the lives of more than 40 million users.

Read more: stc’s innovations in LEO satellite technology is revolutionizing global connectivity


Upgrading digital empowerment

With the goal of elevating the Saudi digital economy, stc group is focused on elevating digital empowerment and connectivity to new heights. By doing so, the company aims to generate increased employment opportunities for both male and female citizens, while simultaneously supporting the development of local content and enriching lives through digital means. Demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, stc group adheres to stringent environmental standards in its operations and business models, aligning with the objectives outlined in Saudi Vision 2030. The company aspires to assume a prominent role in driving digital transformation within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond, thereby making a positive impact on the Middle East and the global stage.

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