Architects of expansion

After signing a landmark contract with Zain to roll out a mobile network in Saudi Arabia, Nokia Siemens Networks outlines its blueprint for expansion in the MENA region and beyond.

  • E-Mail
By  Roger Field Published  February 4, 2008

After signing a landmark contract with Zain to roll out a mobile network in Saudi Arabia, Nokia Siemens Networks outlines its blueprint for expansion in the MENA region and beyond.

While telecom professionals are accustomed to hearing news of ambitious expansion plans from the leading telcos, less is heard about the network infrastructure providers that make these plans a reality.

I expect that it will be very strong competition in the Saudi market. But the market is still growing quite a lot – a lot of people have two numbers and the usage is very high.

But as chairman of Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) in the Middle East and Africa, Walid Moneimne is just one of a new breed of ICT specialists who is keen to put telecom infrastructure players back in the limelight.

And Moneimne has much to talk about, with NSN - a joint venture that was established by Nokia and Siemens in 2006 - having recently signed a US$935 million contract with Kuwaiti telco Zain, to develop and maintain its network in Saudi Arabia.

NSN, which has already worked with Zain in countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Sudan and Nigeria, will be building the bulk of the network for Zain in KSA, including a 2G and 3G network from the start of the contract.

"We are the strategic partner and we are supplying 70% of the coverage, so 70% of the radio and 100% of the core network, which includes all the NSC servers and media gateways that are deployed in the region, giving greater flexibility in managing traffic," Moneimne says.

For Moneimne, the contract is an example of the complete service NSN is able to offer its clients since the creation of the company last year. "Greenfield operations, like this operation in Saudi Arabia, involve almost every single product and service that we have on offer," he says.

It is also a significant break into the Middle East and African market - where NSN intends to become the biggest player in its field - and which Moneimne estimates could be worth some euro10 billion (US$ 14.7 billion).

"This is an extremely important milestone for the company worldwide, as well as for the Middle East and Africa," Moneimne says. "The size of the contract is very significant. We are using almost all our product lines and services for the contract and we are working with an important group that has a strong ambition to grow regionally and internationally.

"We look at the Middle East and Africa as one of the fastest growing markets in the world and we predict the total size of the market to be about euro10 billion.

While Moneimne concedes that he lacks all of the required data, he estimates that NSN is currently the number-two player in the region.

He is also convinced that the company can take the number-one slot by focusing firmly on the needs of the end-user, and by ensuring that the best aspects of the former Nokia Networks and Siemens Communication are fully exploited in the new company.

To do that we designed all our team to be customer-focused. After the Nokia Siemens merger we were able to unify our products and services into one and we were able to unify our customer team."

Indeed, the merger of the two companies in 2006 created a formidable presence, with the combined company having a large portfolio of products and services in the mobile and fixed infrastructure sector, and a significant customer-base. "Typically we work with about 600 customers worldwide - which is most of the operators in the world," Moneimne says.

Room for growth

While NSN and Zain have high hopes for their venture in Saudi Arabia, some analysts have suggested the market will be difficult for the Kuwaiti operator to grow in, mainly because it already has a high mobile penetration rate and already has two mobile operators, Saudi Telecom and Mobily.

And while Moneimne recognises the challenge that Zain and NSN face in Saudi Arabia, he thinks there is plenty of room for a third player. "I expect that it will be very strong competition in the Saudi market.

But the market is still growing quite a lot. We expect a lot of users to carry two phones - a lot of people have two numbers and the usage is very high. Saudi also has the Haaj pilgrimage, creating an ongoing flow of visitors.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code