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As organizations across the world move faster towards the deployment of 5G-enabled technologies, Nokia continues to expand its end-to-end portfolio of 5G solutions, software, and services that allow its customers to take advantage of the promise of the next-generation network.

To capture the tremendous opportunities of 5G, Nokia provides all required products and services to build, evolve, and operate advanced and future-proof communication networks. Telecom Review sat down with Soenke Peters to discuss his new role as head of customer network solutions at Nokia, MEA and how 5G will enable a completely new customer experience.

Could you start off by telling us a little bit about your new position as ‘head of customer network solutions’ and what it entails?

Nokia is providing an end-to-end portfolio of products and services to our operator and enterprise customers all over the world and in MEA. The customer network solutions team plays an important role in understanding the business priorities and drivers of our customers and creating solutions to meet their business needs. Another important scope of our work is to create network evolution plans together with our customers. With 5G, many new technologies, concepts and business models are emerging and the Nokia Bell Labs FutureX architecture serves as framework to help our customers develop the best possible network and evolve toward future needs.

You seem to have been with Nokia for several years now. Could you provide us with a comment, based on your own opinion, on how Nokia has grown in the end-to-end space since you joined the company?

Indeed. Nokia has been reinventing and renewing itself in many remarkable ways over more than 150 years. During my career at Nokia, I have witnessed the development from a mobile network focus into a global end-to-end network technology company – providing all required products and services to build, evolve, and operate advanced and future-proof communication networks.

Today, Nokia provides solutions for all key domains like mobile and fixed access, transport, IP routing, voice and data core, user data repositories, customer experience management, charging, billing, automation and orchestration, WiFi and 4G/5G CPEs for fixed wireless access. Professional services augmented by AI/ML like network optimization and operations help our customers to optimally use and leverage their network investments and improve end user experience.

Can you also tell our audience how Nokia as an end-to-end network solutions supplier has strengthened the company’s position in the market, and also how this strength is an added advantage for your CSP as well as enterprise customers in MEA?

Nokia is the only end-to-end solutions supplier with a truly global reach, and we provide value to our customers in at least three different ways.

First, while Nokia has a fantastic RAN portfolio, it became apparent that 5G will trigger a profound shift in network technologies and business models. 5G standalone (SA) networks will allow unprecedented connectivity in three dimensions, enhanced mobile broad band (eMBB), massive machine-to-machine communication (mMTC/IoT) and ultra-low latency and ultra-reliable communication (URLLC).

5G SA changes almost every aspect of the networks, touching mobile and fixed access, transport, core, and introduces distributed cloud architecture. Nokia’s portfolio covers all areas and therefore allows us to comprehensively support our customers to evolve their networks into the future.

Second, while a few communication service providers (CSP) aspire to be system integrators, we recognize that most CSPs want to focus on their core business and hence rely on strong partners for the heavy lifting, ensuring the network is doing what it is supposed to do: provide excellent services to their customers and generate revenues.

Third, the growing enterprise segment driven by the understanding that private LTE or 5G networks are a key enabler for productivity gains and are a critical component for the 4th industrial revolution. Worldwide, Nokia has more than 180 private wireless customers. We are working with our customers across MEA on use cases and their networks to be able to address this growing customer segment.

We foresee various options and alternatives to deploy services to enterprises. Either by utilizing the CSP network, a dedicated private network, dedicated or shared cloud infrastructure and hybrid models. Nokia’s broad portfolio, expertise and partnerships enables us to advise and devise the optimal solution considering end-user requirements and regulatory frameworks.

How has the landscape of customer network solutions changed over the course of the pandemic? And how is Nokia catering to this shift in demand?

Within weeks we saw data traffic growth of approximately 30%. We observed a steeper and larger increase of traffic via the fixed access networks and a drop in mobile voice traffic due to reduced mobility. Home entertainment services like video streaming compounded this effect. Traffic patterns moved from business to residential areas.

During the initial phase, our service teams worked closely with our customers to identify and mitigate any potential bottlenecks in their networks to ensure highest service levels during the traffic surge.

Interestingly, despite easing of the lockdown in many MEA countries, network traffic has not gone back to pre-pandemic levels - apparently user behaviors have changed more permanently.

From a mid to long-term perspective, operators must prepare for continued growth in their networks and uncertainty around usage patterns. Technologies like software-defined networking, cloud-based architectures and automation will help operators to address these challenges and are part of our ongoing engagements with our customers in MEA.

The pandemic exposed that today’s societies are depending on reliable and secure communication networks. While companies and governments have accelerated digitization programs, just imagine a scenario where a rogue actor would be able to infiltrate, de-activate networks partly or completely - the result would be devastating. Therefore, it is critically important to design security into the networks from the beginning, not as an afterthought. Security assessments and mitigation plans across the whole network are necessary so that we can continue to rely on the networks.

How will 5G contribute to the customer experience landscape in MEA?

5G will enable a completely new customer experience around speed, latency and massive scale. Initial deployments of the 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) architecture focus on enhanced mobile broadband services.

Fixed wireless access (FWA) is an interesting option for mobile operators without fiber access infrastructure. Early 5G adopters in the Middle East have seen great user acceptance and fast subscriber uptake in the FWA segment during the pandemic. Needless to say that Nokia has a comprehensive and market-leading solution for FWA, including the FastMile family of powerful and stylish 5G CPEs. 

The distributed cloud architecture of 5G SA will enable a paradigm shift by moving network functions and applications to the network edge (MEC). Edge computing enables new use cases and applications, requiring only “thin clients” on the user equipment as most of the processing will be performed at the edge of the network. Hence, users can expect smart wearables that have a compact design and longer battery life.

Industries and businesses in sectors such as manufacturing, energy, transport, health, entertainment, and tourism will immensely benefit from the ultra-low latency, high reliability and massive scale.

The possibilities are endless, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface. The 5G journey has just begun.

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