Unified Communications Featured Article

Saudi Telecom, Nokia Siemens Networks Connect During Hajj

January 19, 2009

Saudi Telecommunications (STC) announced that it has handled successfully the communication needs of the millions of pilgrims who visit Mecca during the annual holy Hajj pilgrimage. Reliable communications being an important requisite during such events STC partnered with Nokia Siemens Networks in order to provide high-quality voice and data services to Mecca’s Hajj pilgrims.

Nokia Siemens Networks is the only provider of GSM and 3G radio for the operator and it provided added network coverage in Mecca, Median and other areas supporting millions of mobile calls and text messages sent during the Hajj season.
Zaid Al-Shabanat, GM Operations at STC, said “As millions of pilgrims move through Masha’er; from Mina to Muzdalifah along to Arafat, an area of 15 square km, we have to manage a huge surge in subscriber numbers, not to mention the existing customer base. Maintaining the quality of calls while ensuring visiting pilgrims stay connected has never been an easy task, but it is one that we have been able to fulfill with the support of Nokia Siemens Networks for close to a decade now.”
The Hajj is only a two-week event and after it is over about 90 percent of the network will go off air. This requires that every year dedicated teams have to be deployed to take care of network planning, optimization, and implementation. The network has to be optimized to handle the traffic and be ready when the pilgrimage actually starts.
First line maintenance and network monitoring teams have to start work fast to get the network ready to take care of traffic in three different areas. Also the Network Implementation team has to equip the network to cope with high-density traffic within a small area. This requires robust equipment and reliable performance under critical conditions, especially in the radio network.
STC has implemented a specialized software solution developed by Nokia Siemens Networks to take care of the huge traffic. The software enabled STC to improve call processing and Base Station Controller performance by tackling problems. This proactive maintenance prevented faults and further harm to network performance. Field teams monitored the network continuously preventing blocked and congested cells besides tuning network parameters and optimizing sites.
The implementation involved setting up many Base Station Controllers (BSCs), Base Tower Stations (BTS), mega BSCs and High Speed Signaling (HSL) Links. High throughput for multimedia applications was provided by EDGE which was used for the first time in the Hajj area.

Shamila Janakiraman is a contributing editor for unified communications. To read more of Shamila’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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