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Telecommunications behemoth Nokia has positioned itself as one of the major players in the 5G space and is set to play a key role in the global deployment of the next-generation networks.

In addition to 5G, Nokia is also playing a critical role in terms of helping operators embark upon their digital transformation journey - and recognizes that for many communication service providers it is a major challenge.

Telecom Review spoke to Mohamed Samir, Head of Services for MEA, Nokia, in an effort to find out exactly how the vendor is helping operators transform their existing business models and operations through digitalization.

We also examined Nokia’s role in global 5G development and deployment, and what 5G use-cases he believes will come to the fore as operators attempt to leverage their investments in the next-generation technology.

 

The emergence of disruptive technologies has forced major industries across the world to adapt and evolve in order to survive. Operators are one of the industries that have been forced to embrace operational reforms. Can you outline to us how Nokia is helping communication service providers transform their business models through digitalization?

Digital transformation is a real challenge for operators today. Preparing for Industry 4.0 and the adoption of new technologies such as 5G or IoT means that they have to change in order to prepare for totally new level of efficiency, completely different business models, and new ways of generating revenue.

Operators need reliability, 100% uptime, agility and speed to address the increasing demands. In this new era, the traditional ways of designing, building and operating networks will simply not be good enough or sustainable. To address these challenges, Nokia continues to innovate and evolve its service delivery capabilities, underpinned by extreme automation.

Another key element to the transformation journey is the Internet of Things (IoT), which has the potential to transform every industry, even traditional ones. There are unlimited possibilities for the usage of IoT applications that will define future smart cities and brings huge business opportunities in MEA, where operators are looking to reduce cost, generate new revenue opportunities and enhance customer experience.

In MEA we have several digitization success stories, that help them transform their business and operations to evolve from a Communications Service Provider (CSP) to a Digital Service Provider (DSP). Nokia provides solutions from Mobile Networks (MN), IP and Optical Networks (ION) and Software divisions to enable operators to reap the benefits of digital transformation. This combination of automation, analytics and AI is a strong enabler to operators to smooth digital transformation.

Nokia is also currently working on AI projects in Saudi Arabia and South Africa that automate Ordering Entry Process to improve lead time by 50% and at the same time reduce tremendously the operating cost.

 

What exactly are the primary objectives and goals of Nokia’s Global Services Business group and what is it exactly that you’re providing?

Global Services is a strategic differentiator and growth engine for Nokia. This business group enhances Nokia's value proposition through services-led solutions and next generation service delivery models. It effectively combines network deployment, maintenance and professional services offerings to match with customer needs.

Nokia’s services are offering help to operators in terms of how they manage complexity, and evolve and modernize their networks for scale, speed and efficiency to ensure network and services quality.

In practice, we help operators throughout their network life-cycle from planning to building and managing networks. Our services range from consultancy to planning and implementation to maintenance and operations. We also enable new business models by providing connectivity platform as a service and providing services around IoT and for enterprises.

 

Can you illustrate to us how you’ve been able to help operators enhance the services they offer by implementing your solutions?

Our product portfolio provides various advanced platforms and services focusing on improving the end-users’ experience. Nokia's advanced Network Planning and Optimization (NPO) solutions based on innovative solutions and services have helped CSP's maximize the performance of the network infrastructure, so that they can deliver the best quality of experience to their customers with better data throughput, while also keeping CAPEX under tight control.

For example, operators have been able to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership by at least 20% through Nokia small cell planning, or increase spectral efficiency by more than 15% through advanced machine learning algorithms. AI can also help to improve customer experience with operators seeing a 60% reduction in Netflix or YouTube buffering and a 25% increase in MOS (Mean Opinion Scores) for Voice over LTE services.

Our unique capabilities such as 3-D Geolocation and Multi-layer optimization allow our customers to make the best of their existing network investments, by only adding capacity when and where it is really needed.

5G is going to be a catalyst for a revolution in the ICT sector, and Nokia will be keen to establish and position itself as a leading player in this space. How does Nokia plan on achieving this, and what do you think it is about Nokia that differentiates itself from rival vendors like Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei?

Nokia is already working on 5G with customers around the globe. Today, we have more than 35 commercial 5G deals in place and are approaching 100 engagements.

What differentiates us is that the Nokia value proposition provides the simplest upgrade of existing radio access, core and transport resulting in faster time to market, higher reliability and less total cost of ownership for the deployment of 5G. Our 5G Future X end-to-end product and services portfolio – covers optical and macro radio, fixed wireless access and cloud core, small cells and IP routing, network agnostic software and more.

As the head of services in the market, I also must highlight how our services capabilities differentiate Nokia. Our 5G Acceleration Services provide a step-by-step approach to help operators to prepare for 5G, including the adoption of the right technology to back up the chosen use cases, the technology evolution involved and other considerations such as developing the required skills, tools and processes.

Our end-to-end Digital Design uses AI to simulate 5G use cases to accelerate real-world network design and ensure 5G networks meet business goals. We are moving away from capacity and coverage-based planning to a use case-based approach considering latency, reliability and throughput requirements.

In addition, with the increasing scale and complexity of networks, our customers are looking for faster deployment, faster rolling out of new services, improved operation and maintenance for better service reliability and experience. We are best positioned to address these pain points since our service delivery is designed for industrialization through reusability of digitized Methods of Procedures (MOPs) across geographies, concurrency of multiple workflows and evolution towards Cognition and zero-touch vision, which means that automation takes’ care of many things.

What are the biggest challenges for operators in their efforts to commercially deploy 5G networks in the Middle East? The regulatory framework is regarded as being friendly for operators, but is the fact operators are reluctant to make significant investments in 5G until specific use-cases are established the biggest obstacle for them?

Middle East and Africa region is currently more of a front-runner in the launch and adaptation of 5G. Operators in the GCC are already on the path to be among the first globally to launch 5G commercially, starting with 5G fixed-wireless broadband (FWB) services back 2018 and adding 5G mobile services to 5G smartphones by mid-2019.

In fact, 5G initiatives are foreseen to unlock considerable opportunities relating to the national transformation ambitions programs of the UAE and Saudi Arabia as they seek to improve public services and encourage economic diversification, particularly through the expansion of the knowledge- and technology-based sectors. Operators are though still likely to encounter significant challenges when it comes to implementing a network roll-out plan that enables them to maximize the returns on their 4G investments. Other challenges would be around the availability of spectrum, the conceptualization of new use cases and business models, and the integration or migration of IoT technologies.

As for the regulatory reform policies and institutions needed to help MEA ICT sector to reach its potential, these are still catching up. Most MEA governments have started to set up regulatory authorities to oversee this rapidly growing sector. Rwanda, Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, South Africa and the Seychelles are among the countries that have adopted ambitious ICT plans with a view to developing their knowledge-based economies.

 

Can you tell us how long you’ve been with Nokia, and explain to us what exactly your primary roles and responsibilities are in your current role as Head of Global Services Middle East and Africa?

I joined Nokia in 2000 and for the last three years I’ve been heading the Global Services of MEA Market. We are currently present in more than 50 MEA countries, serving a large number of customers with our end-to-end services portfolio from planning and implementation services to operation and maintenance services as well as consultancy and training services. Such a business volume and geographical spread requires long-term strategy planning as well as intensive focus on delivering sustainable digital transformation to our customers.

We are committed to manage our customers' expectations by helping them manage complexity, evolve and modernize their networks for scale, speed and efficiency and ensure network and service quality. An indicator to our success is reflected in the number of multi-vendor sites that we are currently managing, which has reached close to 100 000 sites across MEA.

We are bringing the latest innovation to the MEA market. Our Nokia WING (Worldwide IoT Network Grid) as a service has been selected recently by Zain Saudi Arabia and Telecom Egypt to introduce IoT services for enterprises. In addition, our Driver Behavior Analytics that is designed to improve road safety by providing road and driver insights to the automotive and insurance industries as well as city councils and transport authorities, has been trialed in the UAE.

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