Zain Saudi Arabia and Finnish equipment vendor Nokia have announced the successful trials of advanced 4.5G features, including uplink carrier aggregation (CA), 4×4 MIMO, downlink 256 QAM and uplink 64 QAM. The trials, which took place in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), will help Zain Saudi Arabia evolve towards the next generation technologies of 4.5G Pro, 4.9G and eventually 5G. Four antennas – both on the Nokia Flexi Multiradio 10 Base Stations and mobile devices (4×4 MIMO) – improved the network performance by 88% to reach download speeds of up to 134Mbps per 10MHz carrier, while uplink CA software aggregated 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, creating larger, virtual carrier bandwidths and boosting the network capacity and uplink speeds (up to 43Mbps). The higher order modulation (256 QAM) increased the downlink speed by 36% per carrier to reach speeds of up to 98Mbps, with uplink 64 QAM improving spectral efficiency and uplink speed by 32% to 32Mbps per carrier.
In separate news, Zain Saudi has paid SAR219.46 million (USD58.5 million) to rival Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), as ordered by an arbitration panel in November 2016. Mobily requested a referral to arbitration in early December 2014 with regards to receivables due under an agreement signed with Zain Saudi on 6 May 2008. Mobily disclosed that by 30 November 2013, Zain owed it SAR2.2 billion for the provision of national roaming, site sharing, transmission links and international traffic. Zain denied the claims and stated it only owed SAR13 million, but the arbitration panel subsequently ruled in favour of Mobily.