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Following his new appointment, Telecom Review spoke to Bernard Najm, SVP, mobile networks, Nokia Middle East and Africa to discuss more about different aspects of mobile networks, including 5G, security and customer experience.

You have been recently appointed as SVP, mobile networks for MEA. Congratulations! Can you explain what does your new role mean for Nokia customers?

Thank you. I am honored to have been appointed to lead Nokia’s Mobile Networks (MN) business in MEA. Under the new set up, we have consolidated various functions needed for a more strong, coherent and accountable organization to bring greater value to our customers in a changing world. We are fully committed to delivering critical networks with superior quality based on continuous innovation to the MEA market and enable a more productive, sustainable and inclusive world.

My role as the head of MN in MEA is to drive all pre-sales and post-sales activities to address our customers’ mobile network requirements. One of our most important tasks is to capture the needs of Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and enterprises in MEA, and make sure that they are adequately addressed by our Nokia solutions and services, in time, ahead of the competition.

How is Nokia enabling a robust 5G ecosystem through its investment in Open RAN?

As 5G continues to be rolled out, the industry has begun to explore the potential benefits of an expanded ecosystem of mobile access players in the market. CSPs, vendors and even governments are working together to define the role of open standards, and how they can help evolve 5G networks to support new services as well as enhanced efficiency. Open Radio Access Network (RAN) sits at the heart of this discussion.

We at Nokia are proud to have a unique approach to openness compared to other vendors, and have chosen to join the Open RAN Policy Coalition. The industry stakeholders including CSPs are creating a path for the adoption of Open RAN. That’s why we are working with CSPs to contribute to standard definitions, including Open RAN interfaces, and define an adoption plan.

By enabling innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applied to the RAN, Open RAN will offer many benefits. These include improved network performance; accelerated time-to-market of new services and functions; more flexible and agile networks; and CAPEX and OPEX efficiencies.

Nokia has a long history of support for open and interoperable technologies, and is also a substantial contributor to 3GPP for 3G, 4G and 5G. Nokia, along with CSPs and other stakeholders, is helping to shape policy choices that will affect how wireless networks are built, including support for research and development in open networks.

What makes a network future proof? What is Nokia offering to help its customers in this regard?

Ultra-low latency, massive connectivity and extreme capacity are the characteristics that we expect from the networks of today. To meet these requirements, 5G networks need to be highly versatile, able to change their architecture to support a vast range of services. Today´s investments must also assure that the radio network is future-proof, ready for the future demands, however and whenever they arrive. The surge of traffic we have seen in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a good example of such un-expected demand.

Our Nokia AirScale Radio Access addresses all this and more by running all technologies in the same radio access, offering huge capacity scaling and market-leading latency and connectivity. AirScale Radio Access is industry-first commercial comprehensive 5G solution enabling operators to capitalize early on 5G. Through our AirScale Radio Access portfolio we offer a modular approach to building networks that deliver the extreme capacity, massive connectivity and ultra-low latency required for 5G services. It supports all radio access technologies including 4.9G, which provides future service continuity with 5G networks. The AirScale portfolio also includes our commercially available AirScale Cloud RAN solution, which enables you to reap the benefits of moving to the cloud one of the key priorities going forward.

At the same it is very important for our CSP customers to deliver superior end-user experiences, seize new revenue opportunities and optimize network and operational performance and this can be achieved through our comprehensive services portfolio. Our services teams offer expertise and global reach that will enable our customers to realize the potential of the technology they deploy.

Security is an important part in mobile network deployments. What is your take on this?

Networks are essential to everybody to be able to connect with each other at work and home especially during this kind of pandemic.  What’s important here is to ensure that people can rely on the networks they use with adequate network security.

This requires solutions that are designed from the outset for security, which are properly managed with a robust detection and response capability and are designed with preventative capabilities to address eventual threats.  

Telco security strategy needs the right balance of proactive and reactive approaches. With the dynamic evolution that operators’ networks are undergoing with virtualization of network functions, cloud uptake, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, a holistic review of comprehensive security architecture is required.

Telcos will need to take advantage of multi-dimensional security analytics for rapid detection of threats. A new, dynamic, massively scalable, distributed security paradigm is required to ensure integrity across and through each layer of the network, ensuring that the people, process and tools are aligned with the telco’s security strategy and network architecture evolution. Nokia has a wide range of services that can help operators achieve these goals.

What will Nokia focus on in 2021 in terms of mobile networks?

As you may know MEA is a very diverse region, some countries are at the forefront of 5G adoption while others are preparing for 5G. With many live 5G networks and the aggressive rollout plans across the region, it is very important to provide competitive solutions for coverage and network slicing, and leverage the mmWave spectrum along with a high level of services to all the 5G frontrunners. At the same time, there are many countries in the region where 2G, 3G and/or LTE are the key technologies. Many of our customers there are investing now in LTE and LTE advanced technologies. As a leader in LTE network performance globally, according to independent third party researches like that of Ookla and RootMetrics, Nokia’s focus is to help our customers build their networks and future proof their investments, by providing them with our comprehensive portfolio.

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