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Zain Saudi Arabia to launch 5.5G service to enrich customer experience, says GM – Arab News

RIYADH: Telecom major Zain was one of the few global players to spot the fifth-generation mobile opportunity early on and has achieved considerable success since the launch of 5G services in Saudi Arabia in 2019.
Now, the company is ready to take the next giant leap with 5.5G, the carrier aggregation over 5G, disclosed the marketing strategy and analytics general manager of Zain Saudi Arabia.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Hamzeh Saud Al-Draaee said, “5.5G is already in our pipeline, and we have seen good results. We are also well prepared to launch the 5G standalone, but we are waiting for the market to be ready.”
Even though Al-Draaee did not comment on the investment into developing 5.5G, he said the company had taken every care to ensure a premium customer experience.
“We are keen to give premium experience and to deliver whatever was needed because our investments are not only to get returns but to be a leader,” he explained.
Ahead of the curve
The telecom operator’s profit for the first half of 2022 increased 157 percent to SR214 million ($57 million) between January and June this year from SR83 million in the same period a year earlier on the back of higher revenue, according to a filing to the Saudi Exchange.
The company’s revenue rose from SR3.8 billion to SR4.4 billion, driven by the growth in the business-to-business, fifth-generation and other revenue streams in addition to a post-pandemic return of international visitors.
Talking about Zain’s success since the launch of 5G services in 2019, the general manager said many factors had played a part in its accomplishments in the last three years.
“I would start with the foresight of our leadership in spotting the ability of 5G to create a massive impact in the years to come,” Al-Draaee said.
Being an operator before the 5G wave, the company could not well entrench itself in growth opportunities such as home broadband and enterprise connectivity. However, Zain looked at the larger picture and spotted 5G’s inherent capabilities and executed the 5G strategy. 
“It all changed after the launch of 5G. Zain became a key player in the home broadband and enterprise connectivity markets. We are now a leading player in these markets in some areas,” he added.
Having pulled out all stops when it came to offering the 5G experience, it is no coincidence that in the last three years, Zain has managed to cover more than 51 cities in the Kingdom.
“Now, we are continuing to expand in terms of numbers, active subscribers that are enjoying the 5G service, and we are continuing to expand,” said Al-Draaee.
“We believe that we shouldn’t stop. If you are a leader, you have a responsibility to lead the way and stay ahead,” he added.
So how did a faster rollout of 5G services help Zain? “Our commercial strategy, coupled with an aggressive 5G rollout, gave us an early mover’s advantage. However, it is important to keep innovating to protect the advantage gained,” Al-Draaee said.
He explained that a faster rollout of 5G services helped Zain get recognized by its customers and regulator and, in turn, helped brand Zain stand out as a reliable network for tomorrow’s services. 

Zain was the first company to launch a cloud gaming service in the Middle East, providing a low-latency gaming experience to its home broadband users without spending on expensive gaming gadgets.
“Today, our home broadband customers enjoy multiple exclusive content and gaming services. So, in a way, Zain has pushed the envelope further for the whole region at the back of its 5G rollout,” said Al-Draaee.
Adding value to customers
In fact, through global strategic partnerships, the company could take the 5G experience in the Kingdom to a new level, and it completed its partnerships by providing digital infrastructure that obtained the best results.
Earlier this year, the company enhanced its partnership with Nvidia to take GeForce Now cloud gaming services to various other countries in the region. The company will continue to develop new and innovative services in the future and provide great experiences to users. But as they say, the road to success is always under construction and is filled with roadblocks.
“From the start, Zain has been aware of these challenges and has worked continuously with its partners to forecast, identify and mitigate them. As a result, it has impacted our performance as a carrier.” 

When asked about the telecom major’s target segment, Al-Draaee quickly responded: “We are targeting the ‘shabab’ or youth segment. Even our portfolio, we call it Shabab. We have Shabab starting from different prices beginning from SR59 ($15.7) until SR399. We know what they are looking for, and we have built products for them.” The company recently launched a customized plan called Shabab Digital, where users can choose data for the internet, social media, calls and messages based on their needs.
Digital transformation
As one of the country’s largest 5G operators, Zain is an active player in the National Transformation Program of Saudi Arabia, driving the digital transformation of industries across the country.
“Zain has been strengthening its cooperation with global technology leaders such as Huawei technologies to focus on digital infrastructure investments to promote economic growth and sustainable development,” said Al-Draaee.
He added: “Zain will be leveraging its 5G standalone network to enable a full suite of new range vertical services for digital industry transformation.”
Regarding digital payments, Al-Draaee said it is part of Zain’s roadmap to have such digital payment strategies in the long run without giving much detail. However, he said the company can either follow what others have or think something out of the box.
RIYADH: Egyptian state-owned Suez Canal Authority is expected to make an investment of 13.1 billion Egyptian pounds ($550 million) in the current fiscal year 2022/2023, Emirates News Agency reported, citing Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Saeed. 
This comes as the authority – which owns and operates the Suez Canal – is targeting to increase the production rates to 120.3 billion pounds in 2022/2023, up from 103.9 billion pounds in 2021/2022. 
Among the other objectives of the Suez Canal sector is to boost the country’s gross domestic product by 7 percent to 107.6 billion pounds, up from 100.5 billion pounds, according to a report released outlining the goals and objectives of the sector in the current fiscal year. 
The revenue of Suez Canal increased in the third quarter of this year by 23.5 percent year-on-year to hit $2.1 billion — the highest figure ever recorded, the official data has revealed. 
This increase is supported by the unprecedented jump in revenues during the month of August which hit a historical record of $744.8 million, according to a release from the Egyptian Prime Minister’s Information Center on Friday.  
As many as 6,252 ships crossed the canal from July to September, with a total net payload of 372.7 million tons. 
The authority expects the canal’s revenues to rise by about $700 million annually, as the transit fees for all types of ships will be increased by 15 percent by January 2023, the chairman and managing director told CNBC Arabia. 
“The size of the share that will be offered from the channel will range from 10 percent to 15 percent,” Osama Rabie said.  
The decision to increase the transit fees was taken to deal with the impact of global inflation. 
Currently, the Suez Canal is mainly responsible for receiving global massive ships and vessels while promoting trade flow, according to Saeed. 
RIYADH: Oil prices settled up by more than 5 percent on Friday amid uncertainty around future interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, while a looming EU ban on Russian oil and the possibility of China easing some COVID restrictions supported markets. 
Though fears of global recession capped gains, Brent crude futures settled up $3.99 to $98.57 per barrel, a weekly gain of 2.9 percent. 
US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $2.96, or 5 percent, at $92.61, a 4.7 percent weekly gain. 
US drillers add oil and gas rigs for third week in four: Baker Hughes 
US energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for a third time in four weeks as relatively high oil prices encourage firms to drill more. 
The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose 2 to 770 in the week to Nov. 4, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co. said in its closely followed report on Friday. 
Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count up 220 rigs, or 40 percent, over this time last year. 
US oil rigs rose 3 to 613 this week, their highest since March 2020, while gas rigs fell 1 to 155, their lowest since late July 2022. 
Even though the rig count mostly increased over the past two years, weekly increases have been in the single digits in recent months and oil production remains below record levels seen before the pandemic as many companies focus more on returning money to investors and paying down debt rather than boosting output. 
US crude production was on track to rise from 11.3 million barrels per day in 2021 to 11.8 million bpd in 2022 and 12.4 million bpd in 2023, according to federal energy data. That compares with a record 12.3 million bpd in 2019. 
But with oil prices still up about 22 percent so far this year after soaring 55 percent in 2021 — and pressure from the government to produce more — several energy firms have said they plan to boost spending for a second year in a row in 2022 after cutting drilling and completion expenditures in 2019 and 2020. 
Biden says meeting with oil companies has not been set up 
US President Joe Biden said on Friday a meeting with oil companies has not been scheduled, after earlier saying he was planning to talk to the firms to complain about their record profits while gas prices remain high. 
RIYADH: Saudi cultural backgrounds are the primary advantages the Kingdom can rely on to become a global tourism hub, according to Amira El-Adawi, founder and managing partner of Amira & Co., a London-based boutique management consulting firm.
“The advantage can be sustained indefinitely, and the Kingdom already has a captive market for this,” she told Arab News.
“However, this has to be done right. It must be authentic and cater to tourists who value authentic heritage and history,” El-Adawi added.
Since 2008, Saudi Arabia has had no fewer than six significant “outstanding universal value” sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Each of the six world heritage sites plays a crucial role in opening up the Kingdom as a destination for cultural tourists worldwide.
One of the UNESCO properties is the ancient city of Hegra, the southern capital of the Nabataeans, who also built Petra in modern-day Jordan.
Hegra archaeological site is a significant destination of more than 22,000 sq. km of AlUla region, with its lush oasis valley and towering mountains.
Dawn of a civilization
Saudi Arabia’s other UNESCO sites include the historic Jeddah, inscribed by the UN agency in 2014, which was established in the seventh century as the major port on the Red Sea and grew rapidly as the gateway for pilgrims to Makkah who arrived by sea.
Jeddah, which developed into a thriving multicultural center, was characterized by a distinctive architectural tradition, including tower houses built in the late 19th century by the city’s mercantile elites, many of which can still be seen today.
Among other heritage sites is Al-Ahsa, listed by UNESCO in 2018.
Al-Ahsa is home to the world’s largest and oldest oasis, a sprawling collection of 2.5 million palm trees scattered over 85 sq. km.
It preserves material traces representative of all the stages of the oasis’s history, from its origins in the Neolithic to the present.
Finally, the Turaif district of Diriyah, considered the birthplace of the Kingdom, was listed by UNESCO in 2010.
Diriyah is now the center of one of Saudi Arabia’s largest giga-projects developed by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
The $50 billion plan to transform Diriyah into a global historical, cultural and lifestyle destination will create 55,000 job opportunities and attract 27 million visitors annually.
Staying ahead of the game
Another area where the Kingdom could compete would be hosting sports events.
Recent reports showed that the Kingdom is talking with sports chiefs in Egypt and Greece over an audacious joint bid to host the 2030 football World Cup finals.
In addition, the country was chosen on Oct. 4 to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at Trojena, a year-round winter sports complex built in the northwest of the Kingdom as part of the futuristic NEOM megacity.
Trojena, due to be completed in 2026, is in an area of NEOM where winter temperatures drop below zero and year-round temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the region.
“Secondary advantages can be created around desert activities —the West has built entire industries and cities around snow and skiing. No one has yet created enough traction around sand sports and desert activities,” El-Adawi said.
The complex will have year-round skiing, chalets, mansions, ultra-luxury hotels and a five-meter-deep artificial lake filled with desalinated seawater.
“This needs innovation and ingenuity to be created from scratch, but KSA has the geography and the funding to do it,” El-Adawi added.
Saudi Arabia has also been hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah.
The race was held in the Kingdom as part of a 15-year partnership between the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and Formula One.
Regaling tourists with culture
El-Adawi believes that entertainment can be a secondary attraction. If people discover the Kingdom’s history, they can also be drawn to explore the variety of Saudi culture, arts and crafts across the Kingdom.
“Once some anchor products are created to draw tourists in, you can have a lot of secondary attractions and adventures that help diversify the visit experience,” she said.
According to El-Adawi, the key to sustainable tourism is to find differentiating elements rather than try and compete with existing offerings from other countries that have been at it longer.
“Saudi Arabia, today, is a market that was never available before. It has an unknown or mysterious factor about it, and a ‘peek behind the curtain’ can be used effectively in marketing to foreigners who have never considered visiting the Kingdom before,” she said.
Therefore, the Kingdom is showcasing its heritage and culture in many aspects, revolving around its esteemed giga-projects accordingly.
Saudi Arabia sees tourism contribute $1.86 trillion, up to 15 percent of the gross domestic product by 2030.
The world’s largest oil exporter aims to attract 100 million visitors annually by 2030 as it plans to move away from oil.
RIYADH: According to the UN, net-zero emissions can be achieved by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal or by eliminating emissions.
Net-zero emissions are also referred to as carbon neutrality or becoming climate neutral. This specific climate goal is key to reducing global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The agreement calls for countries to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
For the oil and gas dominated Gulf Cooperation Council countries, this means translating net-zero emissions ambitions into tangible action.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. The country has undertaken $1 billion in climate change initiatives as part of the Saudi Green Initiative program, which seeks to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, an early storm warning center and cloud seeding programs as part of its efforts to create a greener future.
The Kingdom will also join the Global Methane Pledge to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 to deliver a cleaner, greener future.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Kingdom will plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come.
According to the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, the Kingdom will achieve this ambition through numerous programs and initiatives, which include energy efficiency, renewable energy, hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center in 2010 and launched the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program in 2012.
“Since then, the program has led to many actions to improve energy efficiency. For example, insulation standards for buildings were introduced, the minimum energy efficiency levels for appliances like air conditioners were increased, fuel economy standards for cars were launched and various awareness campaigns were implemented,” Anwar Gassim, a researcher at KAPSARC, told Arab News.
Saudi Arabia launched and built several major renewable energy projects, taking advantage of its natural potential in solar and wind. For example, there is the Sakaka solar power plant, the first “utility-scale” solar power project in Saudi Arabia, with 1.2 million solar panels arranged in an area of over 6 sq. km. and a capacity of 300 MW.
“This project, which is fully operational, has set a new world record for the lowest solar power generation cost,” Gassim said.
Another example is Dumat Al Jandal, Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind project. “With a capacity of 400 MW, Dumat Al Jandal is the largest wind farm in the Middle East,” he added.“Furthermore, Saudi Arabia very recently announced five new renewable energy projects, with a combined capacity of 3,300MW,” he said.
Moreover, Saudi Arabian Oil Co. has been pioneering the capture and storage of carbon dioxide to enhance oil recovery from its fields. At its plant in Hawiyah, Saudi Aramco can capture 45 million standard cubic feet of the gas, which they pump and store in an oil reservoir, leading to increased oil production.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp. has built one of the largest CCUS plants, which uses the captured gas to produce liquified carbon dioxide that can be used in the food and drink industry. It also uses the captured gas to produce valuable chemicals like urea and methanol.
The Kingdom aims to become the world’s leading hydrogen producer and exporter in hydrogen production and has already taken the first step globally. Saudi Aramco and SABIC, in partnership with the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, announced in 2020 the world’s first blue ammonia shipment from the Kingdom to Japan.
“Ammonia, a form that makes transporting hydrogen easier, is obtained by combining hydrogen with nitrogen,” Gassim said.

“The blue ammonia was shipped to Japan to be used in zero-carbon power generation,” he added.
Furthermore, NEOM announced its plans to build one of the world’s largest green hydrogen plants.
Saudi Arabia also announced its ambition to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with the remaining 50 percent coming from natural gas.

According to the state’s government portal, the UAE was the first country in the Middle East to establish the Net-Zero by 2050 strategy, pledging to cut carbon emissions by 23.5 percent, equal to 70 million tons by 2030.
The Abu Dhabi Department of Energy announced new clean energy generation projects focusing on solar and nuclear sources to help meet these goals. In addition, the Dubai Future Council of Energy released a detailed path to establishing a carbon-free economy.
The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has also pledged $400 million to a new energy transition program to finance renewable energy projects in developing countries that would otherwise be unable to raise funds.
The deployment and use of clean energy solutions are one of the main pillars of the UAE’s model of addressing the challenge of climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 
The UAE government portal reported that the country began financing clean energy projects more than 15 years ago and has invested over $40 billion in the sector to date.
Current trends predict the production capacity of clean energy, including solar and nuclear, to reach 14 GW by 2030, up from about 100 MW in 2015 and 2.4 GW in 2020.
The country has also invested in renewable energy ventures worth around $16.8 billion in 70 countries, focusing on developing nations.
It has also provided more than $400 million in aid and soft loans for clean energy projects.

Qatar, which has the highest carbon intensity per capita in the world, reaching 34.3 tons of carbon dioxide per capita in 2021, has created a national climate change action plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030 and liquefied natural gas facility carbon intensity by 25 percent by the same year.
Qatar is the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas and aims to expand its production to 127 million tons annually by 2027.
It says its gas production helps combat climate change globally because it can help the world shift from high-polluting fuels like oil and coal to renewable energies.
The plan pledged to intensify efforts at carbon capture and storage at its gas production facilities, Reuters reported.

Kuwait has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4 percent by 2035.
The country estimates greenhouse gas emissions at around 142 tons of carbon by 2035, 65 percent more than in 2016. The 7.4 percent cut would limit GHG emissions by nearly 11 tons to 132 tons.

Most of the reduction in GHG emissions would come from an oil-to-gas substitution in energy production, according to Enerdata intelligence and consultant.
In 2016, fuel combustion activities accounted for 95 percent of the country’s total GHG emissions, amounting to 86 tons, followed by industrial processes and product use 2 percent and waste 2 percent.
In 2018, Kuwait implied a commitment following the Paris Agreement to transitioning to a low-carbon economy without a quantitative target, Enerdata reported.

Bahrain committed to net-zero emissions by 2060 and pledged a 30 percent reduction by 2035, including investments in renewable energy, carbon removal solutions and afforestation.
The state’s action plan includes an integrated strategic plan for afforestation, aesthetic landscaping and green patches in all parts of the country.
More than 120 public parks and gardens have already been constructed all over the governorates in addition to a series of construction projects underway in which it has been observed that they should satisfy the housing, urbanization needs in each region, according to the UK-based Climate Action platform.

Oman is the latest country to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, announcing its plan recently. The target involves reaching zero routine flaring by 2030 and a 7 percent reduction in emissions by that year.
According to media reports, renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts are among the country’s interim goals, aiming to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2027.
In October, Oman also established the state’s Sustainability Center to supervise and follow up on zero-carbon emission plans and programs.
The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris agreement, signed by 192 countries, including Oman, requires states to balance anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, The National reported.

RIYADH: Qatar’s hospitality market could grow by 89 percent to over 56,000 hotel keys by 2025. The planned hotel room supply delivery is expected to cost around SR26.3 billion ($7 billion), according to global real estate consultant Knight Frank.
That is not all. Tourism is expected to contribute 12 percent of Qatar’s global domestic product, or $55 billion, and the country hopes to receive close to 7 million tourists by 2030, according to Adam Stewart, head of Qatar for the consultancy firm.
“While there is palpable excitement in Doha as the FIFA World Cup draws near, for the country’s hospitality sector, the best is yet to come,” said Faisal Durrani, Knight Frank’s head of Middle East Research, in its latest report. 
With nearly 27,000 hotel keys waiting to be delivered in the next three years, Qatar’s hotel offering will undergo a huge transformation by 2025, Durrani added.
He said that following the World Cup, Qatar expects to see an influx of visitors once the excitement of the tournament subsides. This wave will lead to nearly double the capacity to over 56,000 rooms.
“Officially, around 30,000 keys had been delivered by the end of 2021, and we estimate that another 3,800 keys will have been delivered by the time the World Cup commences,” Stewart said.
Market recovery
Knight Frank’s research stated that tourist arrivals are slowly recovering as travel restrictions linked to COVID are being relaxed by the authorities, and visits from Gulf Cooperation Council states are already exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
However, visitors from India, which historically has been the largest source of inbound arrivals, are about a third lower than last year.
Stewart said Qatar would temporarily expand its hotel capacity by adding 3,900 cabins to two luxury cruise ships moored off its coast, with another on the way. Additionally, Stewart said cabin-style rooms are being quickly constructed across seven fan villages to accommodate 1 million World Cup fans.
Knight Frank’s research also indicated a shift in the top hotel operators in Qatar by 2025, with InterContinental Hotels Group falling out of the top three. 
Durrani explained: “The Marriott Group will continue to fortify its position as Qatar’s leading hotel operator, with about 8,800 rooms under management by 2025, up 152 percent from today.”
Accor and Hilton Hotels & Resorts round out the top three, together controlling nearly 19,000 rooms, or about a third of total hotel keys.
However, he added that there would be a significant change as IHG would slide into fourth place from second place, with around 3,500 rooms.
Moreover, Knight Frank’s analysis showed international hoteliers will control 62 percent of Qatar’s hotel keys, up from 59 percent today, Stewart said.
“In reality, this could be even higher as 17 percent of rooms are yet to be allocated to an operator,” Stewart added.
Ultimate in luxury
Turab Saleem, Knight Frank’s head of hospitality, tourism and leisure, said that prices in the region are very much focused on the upper end of the market. 
“Just 14 percent of the expected hotel keys are in the three-star and lower category; however, this is the segment that could present the greatest opportunity to transform Qatar’s appeal to a wider audience, particularly in the wake of the World Cup, which will put the country in the global spotlight,” Saleem said.
According to Knight Frank’s analysis, 76 percent of the planned rooms would be four- or five-star accommodations. Today, 69 percent of Qatar’s hotel rooms fall into this category.
Therefore, operators will need to actively target tourists seeking affordable, budget holidays by offering all-inclusive packages that are already popular in markets such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, and the Caribbean.



Joseph Muongi

Financial.co.ke was founded by Mr. Joseph Muongi Kamau. He holds a Master of Science in Finance, Bachelors of Science in Actuarial Science and a Certificate of proficiencty in insurance. He's also the lead financial consultant.