STC makes Gitex debut

Saudi Telecom Company appears at Gitex for the first time as liberalisation starts to open up the Kingdom’s telco sector

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  October 6, 2004

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is exhibiting at Gitex for the first time this year. The Saudi Arabian telecoms operator is planning to expand its service offering and face the challenges of impending liberalisation in the Kingdom’s telecoms sector. STC’s decision to attend Gitex also reflects the recent decision to award Saudi Arabia’s second mobile licence to Etisalat, the incumbent operator in the UAE. Earlier this year, STC concluded the largest IPO in the history of the Kingdom. Financial results since flotation have been positive with STC recording net profits of US$1.37bn on sales up 24% year-on-year at US$3.9bn despite cuts in call charges. STC is currently preparing to add new services to its mobile offering including MMS and 3G. As well as focusing on growth in its mobile business, STC is also looking to restructure pricing in its internet access and fixed line businesses. The proposed changes aim to make each business unit a strong operating proposition and end any cross subsidising between divisions according to Eng. Khalid Bin Abdullah Al-Molhem, president at STC. STC has a subscriber base of eight million mobile users in Saudi Arabia — a penetration rate of 40% according to Pyramid Research. In comparison, the UAE has a mobile penetration rate of almost 80%. STC recently announced that it had struck a deal with Juniper Networks to provide a range of security solutions for its internal networks including an integrated firewall and virtual private network (VPN) and secure socket layer (SSL). Saleh Al-Zahrani, director of information security controls and solutions at STC, says: “As a regional leader in tele and data communications, Saudi Telecom recognises the need to leverage superior security solutions to protect its operational data from the ever-increasing threats caused by hackers and unauthorised users. Further, to ensure simplicity and minimise operational overhead, we want a single-vendor solution capable of delivering reliability, stability, performance, high quality support and integrated functionality. We found Juniper Networks provides the best product range to meet these needs.” The network connections of 11 STC regional offices around Saudi Arabia are being secured by redundant pairs of mid-range integrated firewall and VPN appliances from Juniper Networks’ security portfolio. IPSec VPN links operate between the core sites and the 11 regional offices to ensure that site-to-site communication is fully encrypted and secure, while leveraging the cost benefits of using the public internet. Eddie Minshull, vice president of sales, EMEA for Juniper Networks, says: “We have provided Saudi Telecom with an integrated, best-in-class suite of security solutions for its internal network, which enables the company to secure its customer-facing organisational activity with confidence. This is an excellent example of the value of Juniper Networks’ broad security portfolio and how complementary IPSec and SSL VPN deployments can be.”

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