Soenke Peters, the Head of Customer Experience Strategy and Technology at Nokia MEA, says the company’s key focus this year is to ensure success for its regional customers
How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
2021 was in many aspects a continuation of 2020. Our customers, the communication service providers (CSP), continued their laser-sharp focus on providing critical communications services to governments, companies, and individuals to keep the economy and the society at large running and connected. In parallel, deployments of new technologies such as 5G continued in the Middle Eastern countries. In summary, 2021 was a solid year, highlighting again how important reliable and performant networks are. Here Nokia played a critical role in supporting our customers to keep the networks running, and keep our communities connected.
What sort of opportunities did 2021 bring along?
The accelerated digitization drove network traffic for enterprises and consumers alike. More enterprises are interested in reliable communication solutions, both on-premise and as a service. Nokia has now more than 300 mobile private network customers worldwide, and we see increased interest and momentum in MEA in these solutions. These trends fueled growth year on year of our business in 2021.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The pandemic continued to influence the way to do business. Hybrid and pure remote engagements were the norm but did not hamper our growth in 2021, and in many cases allowed for even broader conversations with more stakeholders. It’s great to see to which extend today’s sophisticated communication infrastructures can support businesses in many sectors.
The momentum towards digitization has unfortunately also attracted adverse players and we saw an increase of cyber-attacks across the world, emphasizing the need to protect networks and end-user devices even more. For example, data aggregated from 200 million devices globally where Nokia’s NetGuard Endpoint Security is deployed showed an 80% year-on-year increase in the number of new banking trojans.
The Nokia Threat Intelligence Report 2021 also highlights the increasing risks for IoT devices. One malware, known as Mozi has been used to create IoT botnets of around 500,000 devices. IoT botnets accounted for 32% of the malware incidents detected by Nokia’s NetGuard security systems. To increase awareness Nokia launched a professional 5G certification course aimed specifically at security.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
All three Nokia business groups, Mobile Networks, Network Infrastructure, and Cloud and Network Services performed well and supported our CSP customers to deploy the latest technologies and cope with increased and unpredictable traffic patterns in flexible ways. Together with our CSP customers, the Nokia team had many achievements in 2021. Nokia partnered with all the leading operators including, but not limited to, STC, Zain, Mobily, Ooredoo, du, and Etisalat across the region to provide the latest technologies to enable superior communication services.
Let me mention just a small selection to show the broad range of activities: With Mobily in Saudi Arabia we piloted the world’s first 4G/5G network slicing, a technology to slice the network to provide high quality and service levels to end-customers. Also, in Saudi we worked with Zain to provide FWA services, using Nokia’s FastMile 5G CPEs and 5G networks. Similarly, we provided Fixed Wireless Access solution with 5G CPEs to Ooredoo in Kuwait and Oman. We also signed a strategic 5G agreement with Ooredoo Group to bring multiple technologies and services, including 5G.
In the UAE Nokia partners with Etisalat and du to power two of the fastest networks in the world. We have been helping our key customers across the region to expand their 5G networks. In addition, Nokia has been selected as the prime supplier by ARC Solutions to provide a high-capacity data center interconnection solution in the Middle East.
And Nokia’s collaboration with UN Women on a pilot project in Saudi, aims to increase the number of women employees, continue to foster a fair and dynamic working environment for female employees and reach out to female students to create awareness and motivate them to join the workforce.
On the enterprise business front, Nokia has been selected to build a secure, private LTE network (pLTE) for Bahrain’s Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) to modernize its distribution network for improved efficiency and performance.
What promises does 2022 bring along?
We at Nokia see increasing interest in enterprise applications and solutions, driven by the ongoing digitization of ever more industries and businesses, requiring secure and reliable mission-critical communications. Examples are logistics, factories, mines, and seaports. Requirements for these applications drive the development of Edge Cloud and the migration from 5G NSA (non-standalone) to 5G SA (standalone) network architectures.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
The ever-increasing traffic in combination with lower latency requirements affects the whole networks of our CSP customers. The correct mix and timing of new technology introduction vary a lot between CSPs, depending on their business plans, ambitions and priorities, maturity of their networks, and local market conditions. Helping our customers to identify the right technology strategy for their specific network evolution represents a large part of what my team is doing in MEA.
In order to cope with the market requirements, Nokia offers a wide range of technologies. In the network access area, we will see increased deployment of 5G. In the GCC countries, we will also see increasingly the migration and introduction of 5G SA services. In other Middle Eastern countries we will help our customers to prepare for the initial 5G introductions, both by providing trials and deploying the required optical and IP infrastructure based on our market-leading Nokia Silicon platform FP4&5 and PSE-V to increase the capacity of the overall networks.
Further, we see a strong momentum to provide fiber access to more and more people and businesses. Most advanced markets will start implementing 25G PON networks, enabling super-fast broadband access. 5G based FWA (fixed wireless access) has proven to be one of the key use cases for 5G, allowing CSPs with limited, or no fixed access infrastructure to tap into new market segments. For dense areas, Nokia will soon launch 5G FWA CPEs even for mmW spectrum.
Network complexity is increasing, driven by more mobile and fixed access technologies, the drive to cloud-native architectures, and mobile and fixed network slicing. The only way to address the complexity and the risk of higher OPEX is automation. In our view what is needed is a business-intent driven, secure, and intelligent closed-loop automation. For brown-field operators, the transformation from the as-is status to a fully automated network can be daunting. Experience from the IT industry shows that massive and huge transformation projects have an extremely high probability of failing. Therefore, we suggest starting small, automating network domain by network domain, and gradually moving towards the desired end state.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
Our key focus remains unchanged – ensuring success for our customers in MEA. Telecommunication undergoes a massive transformation and sees the entry of many new players from the IT industry, including web-scale companies. This poses many strategic questions to our CSP customers, like deciding the areas where to co-operate and where to compete with the web-scale companies. Again, Nokia teams stand ready to discuss, review and advise customers on the various options and their implications. Thanks to our commitment to openness and our any-cloud strategy, our solutions can be deployed in any scenario: dedicated on-premises servers, hybrid, or public cloud infrastructure.
From a sustainability perspective, access to opportunity remains stubbornly inequal, and our planet is in distress. We believe that our technologies, implemented together with our customers can help to address many of the challenges the world is facing, or as our CEO said: there is no green without digital.
Thus, we at Nokia envisage a world where sustainability takes front seat with connecting the unconnected, inclusive society as well digital transformation of industries in the coming years. We at Nokia believe technology is central to the solution so we create technology that helps the world act together.