Telecom Review managed to secure an interview with the esteemed organization’s CEO, Dr. Ahmed Sindi to gain some insight into their latest projects, the Kingdom’s fiber optics journey and to discuss the opportunities that lie ahead.
First of all, can you give us an overview of Dawiyat Integrated?
Dawiyat Integrated, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Electricity Company, was established with the aim of optimizing investment of SEC's fiber optic systems covering more than 80,000 km across the Kingdom including villages, hamlets and borders, and use them to provide integrated telecom services and improve quality and speed of Internet in the Kingdom in line with the Kingdom Vision 2030 and the National transformation Program 2020 which includes many initiatives in this aspect, the most prominent of them is the initiative of deploying the broadband fiber-optic systems to homes.
How is Dawiyat Integrated supporting the digital transformation of the Kingdom?
Dawiyat Integrated company, the kingdom’s neutral wholesale infrastructure service provider, owns the most advanced unprecedented state-of-art fiber network which is fully compliant with the highest international standards and specifications as well as ultimate reliability. It possesses all fundamental capabilities for local, regional and international fiber interconnection with mass fiber coverage across the kingdom with more than 80,000 Km of fiber across the kingdom with annual growth rate of 5%, offering comprehensive telecommunication infrastructure services and smart solutions including the development, operating and maintenance of fiber optic networks and smart city capabilities.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to one of the most advanced markets in the GCC and has one of the most mature telecoms markets in the MEA region. As part of the telecom industry in Saudi Arabia, Dawiyat Integrated play’s a crucial role in enabling digitization. The company is heavily involved in the deployment of a cutting-edge digital fiber optic infrastructure with around 500,000 households connected by end of year 2019 which complies with the government’s ambition of speeding up fiber deployment, expanding broadband footprint over fiber coverage and enhancing efficiency which is making a significant contribution to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing a massive digital transformation to build a smart nation powered by a vibrant digital economy that can serve the ever-changing needs of its citizens and businesses. Saudi Vision 2030 aims at building a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
What role does Dawiyat Integrated play in achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030?
Dawiyat Integrated plays a very important role in the Kingdom's Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 as Dawiyat Integrated is a unique carrier provider with a specialized carrier neutrality providing telecom infrastructure services including fiber access to all operators neutrally being wholesale infrastructure provider. Furthermore, it sets on top of the most extensive power network infrastructure assets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the power pathway connects every single home and business entity within the Kingdom. Dawiyat Integrated is in the process of connecting total of 744,500 households across Saudi Arabia to its fiber optic network where we’re looking forward to connecting close to 250,000 additional households by 2020 which will propel the Saudi economy and increase its competitiveness in substantial ways across different sectors.
The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) launched an open access agreement and Dawiyat Integrated was one of the signatories, where does the importance of such an agreement lie, and how will your clients benefit from it?
Dawiyat Integrated’s main goal on fiber rollout is to deploy cutting edge digital fiber infrastructure in each city across the kingdom, which will be open and made available to all service providers on equal basis so that they can compete based on offerings without the need for infrastructural over deployment.
Saudi Arabia is one of the first countries in the world to adopt an open access model allowing all broadband service providers to offer their services to all customers within KSA covered with FTTH access infrastructure by any of the network operators. The adoption of an open access model will increase the use of our fiber-optic infrastructure.
Open access helps operators leverage the advantage of shared economy and collaborative deployment of fiber infrastructure. The open access initiative aims to reduce the substantial cost of capex investment for rolling out new fiber infrastructure, avoiding duplication on infrastructure rollouts and investment overlapping, which results in substantial cost reduction of capex and increase of rollout cost efficiency encouraging competition and opening up the door for more business with enhanced service offering and service quality improvement. It will open the market for subscribers to select preferred service provider over this open access infrastructure irrespective of the actual physical fiber access network owner.
How can such an initiative contribute to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030?
The open access initiative helps optimizing kingdom resources leveraging on the power of shared economy and digital advancement while building a cohesive digital community, in line with the Kingdom's ambitious Vision 2030. The Kingdom’s digital transformation has accelerated significantly since the launch of Vision 2030, noting that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ICT sector is the largest in the Arab world. According to the International Telecommunication Union, Saudi Arabia has an internet penetration rate of 93% versus the global average of 53% and recently jumped 92 places to 13th in global rankings for internet speed, with an average download speed of 55.6 Mbps.
In what way is Dawiyat Integrated contributing to the development of the telecommunications sector in KSA?
Dawiyat Integrated thus far holds the only licenses in Saudi Arabia as an independent wholesale service provider. We provide telecom infrastructure and access to all licensed telecommunication companies as a wholesale and neutral network. This model allows us to build the telecom infrastructure giving the telecommunication companies the benefit of cutting off capital investments and of focusing on the services and VAS, which is an efficient way to deploy capital, especially in extensive projects like the rollout of 5G. As we are fully owned by Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), we monetize the government’s substantial investment in providing electricity to more than 13,000 villages and cities across Saudi Arabia. Within this scope of activities, SEC is building an extremely large, +80,000km fiber-optic network. Overall, Dawiyat Integrated will enable not only significant growth into the telecommunications sector, but also significant growth and enablement in huge creative projects like smart network for electricity, smart water meters, and smart city initiatives.
Are you planning on launching new projects in 2020?
There are great opportunities in the Saudi market. We are probably entering the most exciting year for fiber services across the kingdom of Saudi Arabia specially after announcing the country’s open access initiative. We’re looking for current and future activities in the kingdom leveraging on the Kingdom's Vision 2030. I think we are seeing increasing awareness of the positive impact of that extensive fiber connectivity and the expected increase on ultra-fast broadband connectivity in the Kingdom with such technological advancement will help in adding advantage to the national economy and contributing to the overall development in addition to creating employment opportunities for enthusiastic Saudi youth.
Dawiyat Integrated has obtained a number of licenses such as Infrastructure Wholesale Services (IWS), Internet Service Provider (ISP) license, and recently “IoT-VNO”, these licenses will help Dawiyat Integrated to unlock new future potentials and help on shaping the digital future of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Dawiyat Integrated has concluded a number of partnerships at the local and regional levels to serve the development objectives. A head of terms was signed with King Salman Energy Park "SPARK" to operate, maintain and commercialize the digital infrastructure and to provide smart services that contribute to the acceleration of the deployment of the fourth industrial revolution environment of the city. In addition, Dawiyat Integrated has been awarded the exclusive right to deploy fiber infrastructure for 5 industrial cities under MODON offering neutral access to all operators within the Kingdome allowing them to offer their services to their end customers. We also leased part of the optical fiber to a number of telecom companies in addition to senior customers and leading companies in the Kingdom. Dawiyat Integrated also owns shares on a new company that is building the newest data center in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Jeddah.
We will continue to build on that momentum to become even more attractive to the government to be able to invest in technology and contribute more to the country’s digital transformation plan, thus helping new infrastructure operators to demonstrate on the market more efficiently so we can actually give a better economic value and diversification to service providers by supplying more efficient and better quality services at lower cost.
At the same time, we will focus on strategic partnerships and substantial investments that will place Dawiyat Integrated on the regional map. We will also target mega projects within the kingdom, which is part of the Dawiyat Integrated strategy, by building dense digital infrastructure and focusing on two major fundamental enablers of digitization for any smart city deployment, the underlying telecom infrastructure for broadband and huge capacity services and IoT platforms.