SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT
Mohammed Abdulaziz Al Hakbani holds a bachelor and master’s degree in engineering and has over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications field. Alhakbani previously held several positions at the Saudi Telecom Company (STC).
In terms of our financial metrics, we are steadily achieving our target with healthy margins and steady growth and doubling down on rolling out infrastructure. Within the three years of establishing TAWAL, we have delivered over 800 new sites and more than 6,000 network upgrades. We are showcasing adjacent services, having obtained a license to roll out in-building solutions that are part of our growth strategy. We are also focused on international expansion, having just executed our first transaction in Pakistan, which is subject to regulatory approval. We keep on working to become the leading regional provider in the field of ICT infrastructure: our activity is mainly to enable operators to enrich the communication needs of the communities by accelerating the development of future technologies, and align TAWAL’s ICT activities to be in line with the digital transformation in the markets we are in.
Across the globe, there has been an acceleration in digital transformation furled by COVID-19: the Kingdom is no exception. The world is more connected than ever, as individuals, governments, and the private sector are highly dependent on digital platforms and applications, and in conducting B2B. This has put great pressure on our clients and the NAOs in fulfilling those obligations regarding coverage and access; TAWAL is keen to fulfill those obligations, meet the necessary requirements, and ensure an easy-to-access infrastructure while assisting the country in achieving its aspirations for digital transformation. This is evident with the 5G roaming and general coverage. There are many gaps to be covered in terms of 5G and rising demand in that regard, both in establishing or deploying new towers to enhance the coverage. The new applications needed to develop the IoTs and AI require high speed, low latency, and better coverage, and we are privileged to play a role in providing that. The government is investing in smart cities: any smart city requires a strong and cost-efficient infrastructure and TAWAL is well-positioned to make it happen. There are certain requisite elements of success in achieving this, such as a clear vision, committed leadership, and having the enabling factors in place; private sector participation and updated government regulations to accommodate smart cities are also essential. We are working ceaselessly in collaborating with our clients, especially with the giga-projects at Diriyah, Qiddiya, and NEOM and in the Red Sea Project: we offer them the development of a cost-effective infrastructure that will underpin and enable their development.
For us, operational maintenance is an integral and important cost item; given the vast infrastructure that we currently handle (we have 15,500 towers shortly set to gross 16,000) we must be very attentive and strict in our operations. What TAWAL has achieved over the past three years is outstanding, as by updating processes and optimizing costs we were able to reduce our overall cost significantly. Meanwhile, we are introducing AI that will allow us to make the shift away from post-incident maintenance to predictive maintenance. We have been accredited in our processes and procedure, with many investments in personnel training and infrastructure maintenance. Our uptime has increased tremendously, and we are continually focused on analyzing data with a dedicated team. During the pandemic, TAWAL was a newly established entity, but it has stirred us to become more diligent and ambitious in our operations. Our processes are updated to enable virtual tower operation center, where for example, in the event of anything happening to the main building we would be able to continuously operate the network virtually.
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