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Digital transformation is critical for telecom operators looking to deploy 5G networks because the technology will require them to be more agile and cost-efficient, a Huawei executive said at the Telecom Review Summit held in Beirut on 13 April. An Jian, President of Huawei Wireless Marketing and Solution Sales, said the 5G "is quite important for the transformation of society, especially for the digitalization of traditional industries."

5G was on top of the agenda at the Telecom Review Summit in Lebanon, where Mr. An presented a keynote speech about Huawei's vision for the next-generation technology. His speech focused on how 5G will kick off a new era where all things will be connected. He said "Some GCC countries can expect 5G early deployment this year and most countries in Middle East might need 3-5 years for 5G national rollout. However, it is the time for all industry associates to start planning on 5G as a strategic infrastructure."

Reflecting on telecommunications development in his native China, Mr. An said 4G deployment has significantly driven changes in the country's economic structure. "I am sure the same thing will happen in the Middle East region," he emphasized. Even though some countries in the Middle East are still new to 4G, they should start learning about 5G and preparing for 5G sooner than later, he suggested.

Operators don't need to jump into 5G, but they are on the position to think about the impact that 5G could have on different industries and how it could help them transform and create new revenue streams, which is particularly important currently when traditional revenue streams are depleting for telecom operators all around the world.

"The use cases for 5G in the future go beyond the imagination," Mr. An said, "but so far, we believe the top use cases are just in a few domains" including consumer broadband, enterprise and manufacturing. He said the technology for 5G business & application exists today but it hasn't reached commercialization yet, the reason is  the infrastructure isn't there to support it.

The challenge for operators in deploying 5G is learning exactly how to monetize their infrastructure investments, Mr. An explained. Huawei invests heavily in research and development to ensure that 5G will benefit its operator customers in terms of reducing costs down the line and providing better experiences for customers, "Huawei now provides Industry only E2E 5G system from device to equipment", he said.

Digital transformation is very critical for telecom operators, he added, as the technology will require them to be more agile and cost-efficient, which can be achieved through network & operation transformation based on cloudification, big data and machine learning, etc.

The high bandwidth and low latency of 5G will enable the IoT and all industries will utilize this to make their applications more agile and intelligent, Mr. An added. This will transform the whole society and even how people live and communicate. New technologies will flourish with 5G, he said, such as connected cars, as well as smart agriculture and intelligent production, to name a few.

"Now is the time to incubate the business model for IoT," said Mr. An. In the Middle East, the technology is able to transform traditional industries, such as oil and farming to become more agile and eco-friendly.

"Xlabs is a research platform built by Huawei for bringing together operators, vertical industry partners and industry leaders to jointly explore future use cases for mobile applications, drive innovation in business and technology, promote an open and solid industry ecosystem. It is urgent now for Middle East to develop 5G commercial applications and create industrial chains to push the whole ‘industry plus 5G' to move forward sustainably, and to embrace the arrival of the 5G era." Mr. An emphasized.

He said the general consensus among Huawei's partners in the industry today is 5G-ready devices are entering into the market. Once 5G comes into "mature deployment", the devices will be as expensive as current high-end smartphones. Since 5G will significantly enhance the users experience, operators will benefit from migrating customers from current network to 5G, he explained.

Huawei is one of the Platinum Sponsors of the annual Telecom Review Summit in Lebanon. Mr. An said the event is "one of the most important events in this region. It's a place where we can interact with telecom leaders and share our ideas with industry partners." The next event will be held in Dubai on 10-11 December.