Albilad branches out on IP system

Saudi Arabia’s Bank Albilad is implementing a massive project to build a converged voice and data network for its head office and branches across the Kingdom. The system will include an internet protocol (IP) telephony based contact centre.

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By  Jane Plunkett Published  May 29, 2005

Saudi Arabia’s Bank Albilad is implementing a massive project to build a converged voice and data network for its head office and branches across the Kingdom. The system will include an internet protocol (IP) telephony based contact centre. The project, one of the largest of its kind undertaken in Saudi, will cover Bank Alibad’s 200 automatic teller machines, 1,440 IP telephones and 150 branches. The system will help to support direct, voice, electronic and internet banking channels. Networking giant Cisco is providing the infrastructure for the system, which it claims is the first banking implementation in Saudi Arabia to cover all branches as well as the corporate network. The implementation covers local and wide area networks, storage area networking, a data centre and a disaster recovery centre as well as the IP telephony solution and the call centre. Speaking at an event in Dubai last week, Mark De Simone, vice president of Cisco Systems, Middle East and Africa, said other banks will need to go down the IP path if they are to continue to compete. “If the banks are not planning to change to an IP network, they will not be banks very much longer,” he said. “Customers are demanding more, the threats and issues that the banks have to contend with are higher. What we are saying from a Cisco point of view is you cannot do this without the network playing a completely new role,” De Simone claimed. Another Cisco customer, Fadi Chehayab, CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait, endorsed De Simone’s claims. The converged network for voice, video and integrated data (AVVID) also promises to provide employees with a more productive operating environment. Bank Albilad customers also stand to benefit from heightened integrity and confidentiality of their information, along with a wealth of other financial services, Cisco claimed. “From a bank perspective, I think it is not feasible to move into the future without moving to an IP network. There is no-way anybody can stay away from IP at this time,” Chehayab said. Bank Albilad is a Saudi joint stock company, which was established in October last year with a corporate capital of 3 billion Saudi Riyals (US$800 million). Created by eight leading Saudi money houses, it offers compliance with Sharia banking rules, and the subscription to the initial public offering held earlier this year was massively over-subscribed. Cisco sees IP as a major growth driver for its operations in the Middle East, according to Ghazi Atallah, general manager for Cisco in the Middle East. While worldwide revenue growth from advanced technology (which contains IP telephony) increased by 45% for Cisco last year, for the Middle East it was 75%. Cisco has also been looking at solutions to help it better target the region, such as Arabic interfaces for its IP telephony systems. “We see ourselves playing a much stronger role in the financial community [in the future]” said Attallah. For Bank Albilad, Cisco is providing a range of its router and switch products, as well as different models of its IP telephones and various IP solutions, such as its CallManager product and its Unity Voice Messaging software.

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