Aji Ed, the CTO at Nokia Middle East and Africa Market, speaks to Arabian Reseller about the opportunities 2019 brings along
How was 2018 for the industry and your company in MEA?
From a technology perspective, 2018 was the most important year of setting the groundwork for 5G in the Middle East and Africa, though there have been activities on this for the last couple of years. Requirements for higher network speed and lower latency are the most important criteria that drive almost every single innovation in telecom network technologies. These criteria drove the demand for 5G technology adoption, and in 2018, Nokia collaborated with all the tier-1 operators in the Middle East and Africa to have initial 5G deployments in n78 frequency band (3.4Ghz-3.8Ghz) based on 3GPP standards. This helped the industry to understand the challenges in 5G network implementation and to prepare for future deployments seamlessly.
What promises and opportunities does 2019 bring along?
First of all, 2019 will be the year of 5G becoming a commercial reality in the Middle East and Africa. This is aligned with various government initiatives like Saudi 5G plans in line with its National Transformation Program 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030, Expo 2020 Dubai event in the UAE etc. The early 5G devices for fixed wireless access are expected to be available from early 2019 and the use case will be around fixed wireless access. 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to be available from late 2019 to early 2020 for mobility use cases.
At the same time, we expect to see strong LTE expansions in some countries and markets. With many operators in the region have already embraced the LTE technology, some operators will move to 4.5G to provide higher speed of 600 Mbps with LTE carrier aggregation, while some of the more advanced operators will move to 4.5G Pro and 4.9G to provide even more higher speed of 1 Gbps and beyond with multiple carrier aggregation and 4X4 MIMO.
Nokia has devised a clear evolutionary path to enable operators toward smooth transition to 5G through 4.5G, 4.5G Pro and 4.9G, and collaborated with many leading operators in the region for successful deployment of these technologies. While majority of customers in the Middle East has already deployed 4.5G and 4.9G, the LTE expansion trend will be increasingly visible in some parts of Africa especially in North Africa and some parts of the Middle East.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2019?
In addition to 5G and LTE Advanced, Nokia expects Edge Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning would be key topics in 2019 and beyond. Although, the transformation to cloud has started with some telcos already, this year will see increased momentum in the edge cloud implementation. Many telecom operators are in the process of migrating the core network to the cloud.
The industry will also see some operators conducting initial implementations on radio clouds and edge clouds. Nokia’s innovative radio solution, AirScale, can bring radio to the cloud. For the cloud transformation, Nokia is providing the best in class Airframe telco cloud and data center solutions. This is based on open standards and support Open Compute Platform (OCP). Nokia provides complete end-to-end solution for cloud including Network Function Virtualization (NFVI), (Virtual Network Functions) VNFs and NFV Management and Orchestration (NFV MANO).
AI has the potential to be organisationally transformational and will be at the core of digital business. AI and Machine learning will be integral parts of Nokia products and these are essential components of the future network transformation.