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Kalaam Telecom Group

Regional digital solutions provider and RIEDEL Networks partner at MENA region

Business is booming in the Middle East, especially in telecommunications. Saudi Arabia is driving growth, commissioning, and financing infrastructure projects while investing in culture, tourism, and sports, transforming the region into a world-class destination for everyone from cycling fans to music lovers.

Despite the tremendous opportunities in the region, there are significant infrastructure challenges. Specifically, the larger telecommunications incumbents who have their own set of challenges when working on regional projects. It’s a long road to reach fully unified services but the landscape is changing. There’s been an increased appetite for collaborative efforts, and a new partnership with Kalaam Carrier Solutions, led by Germany’s RIEDEL Networks, takes advantage of this new landscape.

Building a Permanent Regional Network

One of the most exciting developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the growing passion for sports—especially motorsports—with four Arabian Gulf races on the 2023 calendar and endurance races. RIEDEL Networks has worked with the biggest motorsports series since 1993, managing audio, video, and data feeds received from each racetrack and distributing them to racing teams, their factories, the governing body, and host broadcasters. Its dedicated team of 20 engineers sets up, tears down, and supports all onsite systems at every event of the season, leveraging Riedel’s worldwide infrastructure to transmit race coverage to an average of 70.3 million television viewers per race and 443 million unique viewers a year.

Riedel works with regional and national incumbent carriers as necessary, and the hunger for motorsports in the MENA region is a tremendous opportunity for the company and its partners. With projected growth of 8.7% by 2026, sporting events are a powerful economic driver. For example, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar attracted nearly 5 billion worldwide viewers and generated $1.56 billion for the country.

“The power of sports is driving change in the region,” said Julia Kirk, Manager of Special Bids and Projects at RIEDEL Networks. “So that is something we would like to focus on, expanding our business and cooperation in the region to be prepared for this in the coming years.”

With four events of the world’s most known motorsport on the region’s calendar and a growing number of WEC and other race series, Riedel needed to build a reliable, fast, and failure-proof network to deliver onsite and international connectivity. They also wanted to make it permanent, which meant they had to reduce the technical complexity of the infrastructure while minimizing administrative headaches.

Seeking a Single Vendor with Deep Roots in the Gulf Region

It takes tremendous telecommunications infrastructure to organize premium sporting events and deliver them to audiences and fans around the world. The resources and partnerships put in place can also open the doors to other connectivity projects. For this project, Riedel sought out incumbents that would assume responsibility for their contributions to the network and who possess deep knowledge about local operations and best practices. It was a big undertaking, but Riedel didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.

“I’m always interested in an easy solution that’s reliable, easy to repair, and quick,” said Timo Siebel, Chief Technology Officer at RIEDEL Networks. “But there had to be more to the potential partnership than the technology.” Also, a partner who is focusing on getting the job done, who has a sense of urgency and knowledge of the business, and then if there is an issue, not having to discuss whose fault it is or how to report anything—just focused on the technical issue and support.“

Ideally, they wanted to find a single vendor who could handle all the races in all the Gulf State countries, providing a one-stop shop and a standardized solution across all sites and events. To get the ball rolling, Riedel sought a partner to connect the region’s four biggest race tracks to it´s global core network for the beginning of the 2023 season in February and put out a call for tenders.

At the same time, Kalaam Telecom, Group headquartered in Bahrain with 6 global offices, was also seeking an opportunity to work on a regional project with RIEDEL Networks. Kalaam Telecom Group is a leading digital solutions provider offering connectivity, voice & comm, cloud, managed networks, cybersecurity, ICT & data center solutions. Kalaam Telecom Group typically handles infrastructure for multinational companies doing business in the Arabian Peninsula, connecting buildings to global corporate WANs and ensuring 24/7 service and support. Kalaam Carrier Solutions, a unified wholesale brand of Kalaam Telecom Group is a single face for the carrier community focused on providing bespoke solutions to carriers, hyperscalers & cloud content providers. With a vision of connecting MENA simplified Kalaam Carrier Solutions is a carrier’s carrier, providing infrastructure that other telcos use for their respective products and services.

Kalaam Carrier Solutions had previously worked on motorsports projects as the sole vendor on a stand-alone basis. However, the company’s previous motorsports projects had been ephemeral. While venue infrastructure remained in place, network connections were activated in the weeks before an event and shuttered after the race was over.

This opportunity offered a chance for the carriers’ carrier to shine.

RIEDEL Networks_Kalaam_Partnership_1

A Fantastic Opportunity for Both Parties

Riedel needed a partner who understood the region and market well and had existing ties to local carriers. They wanted a vendor who could deftly navigate local business customs and regulatory frameworks, get things done, and deliver a project on time and within budget. Kalaam Carrier Solutions was perfectly positioned to meet these and other project criteria, offering an independent, objective view into the challenges of working in the MENA region, helping Riedel eliminate red tape, and recommending the best infrastructure solutions to overcome local geographic, economic, and technological hurdles.

“We try to take a more of a carrier agnostic view,” said Luthfur Khan, Senior Regional Director at Kalaam Carrier Solutions. “Some of the complexities in the Middle East are quite unique to the Middle East, and unless you are living and breathing it daily. We do our utmost best to ensure that we outline any advantages and disadvantages of the various solutions to our partners. That may result in us providing 20% or 70% of the service. But the aim is to deliver the best possible service to the customer.“

Kalaam’s existing network offered robust connectivity between the Arab Peninsula and the rest of the world. The company was uniquely positioned to support Riedel in establishing a new point of presence (POP) in Manama, Bahrain, connect the racetracks to that POP, and then connecting the Bahrain POP to Riedel’s other POPs in Marseille, Milan, and Singapore. Connecting the racetracks to Riedel´s new Bahrain POP required routing traffic across government and other private third-party networks, and Kalaam provided a solid overview of the high-demand infrastructure needed to transmit high-profile sporting events worldwide in real time.

With so much to offer, Kalaam was the clear frontrunner, and the company was invited to submit a proposal. The team at Riedel was impressed by the two-part presentation, comprising a technical and commercial section.

“It was a huge opportunity for us —getting the chance to actually work with a project that is under the spotlight and is viewed by hundreds of millions of people around the world,” said Ataullah Tisekar (Ata), Assistant Director, Europe and North America at Kalaam. After the technical presentation, Ata asked RIEDEL Networks CEO Michael Martens what he thought. “Michael took a pause there. It was the longest five seconds of our lives I think. And then he goes, ‘Of all the possible partners that we’ve met so far, you guys are the only ones who’ve understood what we really want.”

Kalaam’s tender was incredibly detailed and adressed all the questions RIEDEL Networks asked.

From Left – Luthfur Khan, May Neama, Riedel motorsports specialst , Veer Passi Group CEO of Kalaam, Michael Martens CEO RIEDEL Networks

From Left – Luthfur Khan, May Neama, Riedel motorsports specialst , Veer Passi Group CEO of Kalaam, Michael Martens CEO RIEDEL Networks

From Zero to a Finished Network in Three Months

The project required a quick turnaround. Kalaam submitted their proposal in November 2022 and needed to have everything in place by mid-February. There was much to do in less than three months.

Kalaam brokered deals with local access partners in the Gulf states, ensuring the density and bandwidth needed to deliver short-term connectivity for ad hoc projects. The company’s data centers were the perfect starting points for Riedel’s Middle Eastern network nodes. Next, Kalaam connected the Middle Eastern POP to Riedel’s Singapore, Malaysia, Milan, and Marseille POPs via submarine cables and handed control to Riedel.

“Kalaam’s core values revolve around ensuring complete 100% transparency for all customers and partners across the region. We are committed to delivering top-notch services, backed by our dedicated team, to offer an unparalleled customer experience” said Veer Passi, Group CEO of Kalaam.

Kalaam’s team worked around the clock to meet the tight deadline. Their technical team was in constant communication with Riedel’s project manager. At one point, 20 people, including Kalaam Group’s CEO, Veer Passi, and members of both companies’ teams, spent 14 hours on a conference call to ensure everything would be in place for the pre-season testing event at the Bahrain International Circuit. Thanks to complete transparency on both sides, the issues that might have stalled the project were rectified, and the network was ready on time.

RIEDEL Networks_Kalaam_Partnership_3

“Everybody was involved, everyone was on standby, and we were having conversations almost 24/7, anytime of the day, anytime of the night, as needed. And the whole team, including Riedel’s technical team and their PA project manager, was there all the time. There was a lot of give and take,” Ata said. “We had a little bit of experience from the past, but at this scale it was really amazing. It was an amazing journey.“

Setting up a new POP in Bahrain and partnering with Kalaam Carrier Solutions enables RIEDEL Networks to make full utilization of KNOT, its optical transport network, and reach some of the most important countries in the MENA region. With that, Riedel covers four additional countries: Saudi Arabia (Riyadh), Kuwait (Kuwait City), Qatar (Doha), and UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai). This not only gives access to new markets in the Enterprise and Multi-National Corporations (MNC) segment, but also increases reliability and lowers costs for the biggest motorsport races in that region. Rather than using Paris or London as typical locations to connect the MENA region, the direct connection between the Bahrain POP and Riedel’s POPs in Singapore, Milan, and Marseille guarantees the shortest latency, particularly for major motorsport events.

Kalaam and Riedel Built High-Speed Connectivity for Motorsports and More

Within the first weeks of the partnership, Kalaam proved their trustworthiness and reliability. “They are absolutely transparent and open in their communication, highlighting any critical points they see very early so that we can make decisions together,” said Kirk. “Kalaam took any worries away, because we know that we can absolutely trust them and rely on their work.”

From Left – Veer Passi, Group CEO of Kalaam and Michael Martens, CEO of RIEDEL Networks

From Left – Veer Passi, Group CEO of Kalaam and Michael Martens, CEO of RIEDEL Networks

Kalaam Carrier Solutions and Riedel collaborated on four premium races in 2023, and just like in motorsports, they focused on optimizing speed and improving technical support. Riedel reported fewer trouble tickets than in previous race seasons. Instead of dispatching European engineers of dealing with various suppliers in the Middle East, they relied on Kalaam’s local teams to resolve issues. Riedel dealt directly with Kalaam instead of jumping through administrative hoops to reach third-party carriers in the region, removing layers of bureaucracy.

Kalaam Carrier Solutions and RIEDEL Networks are on their way to offering on-demand, real-time services to some of the major sporting centers in the region and partnering on other sport and media events. Drivers are moving at breakneck speeds, and there’s no room for errors or delays. Now, racing teams can communicate with drivers, stream automotive data to their mechanics in real time, and interact with broadcasters and social media from the trackside, and transmission times from the region’s race tracks to broadcaster and racing team facilities were substantially reduced. Riedel is close to completing the stage two improvement Kalaam proposed, which reduced the round-trip delay from Riedel’s Milan POP to the Middle East POP from 120 to 70 milliseconds, a 41% improvement.

Kalaam and Riedel’s low-latency, high-availability Gulf State network was built for speed and reliability, bringing the excitement of the region’s biggest motorsport races to the world. Kalaam hopes to leverage their joint network to better connect the Middle East to the rest of the world, creating exciting new opportunities beyond sports.

“It’s always an ongoing process. You cannot just sit back and rest on your laurels. You’ve got to keep thinking and you’ve got to keep thinking out of the box. And that’s I think what we’re doing with Riedel,” Ata said.