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Naveed Kashif, head of Sales, ION (IP and optical networks) for Middle East & Africa, Nokia, speaks to Telecom Review about the company's vast and successful IP and optical networks business - solutions that can help any organization with carrier-grade needs meet the challenges of evolving network infrastructure. Kashif highlights why Nokia's ION solutions are important for the MEA region and discusses plans for the sector's future in the company.

What is Nokia's sales strategy for IP and optical networks in the Middle East and Africa?
Nokia's IP and optical networks business helps any organization with carrier-grade needs to meet their challenges of evolving network infrastructure. Our comprehensive portfolio of IP and optical products addresses all major applications including mobile packet core and transport. In the same time, our innovations in software defined networks, virtualization and video are enabling networks to respond faster and deliver more value to customers than ever before.

In terms of sales strategy, Nokia's focus is to work in consultative and partnership mode with our customers to help them build state-of-the-art networks and address their business and operational challenges in an effective manner. Nokia believes in providing high quality technical solutions to its customers to add immediate value to their business and bring operational efficiency.

Can you explain why the IP/ON product line is important for the region?
The MEA region is composed of diverse markets with varying needs which range from tier 1 markets like the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Africa to a variety of emerging markets. In the MEA region, there is an immediate need to address the key challenges faced by our customers such as:

• How can I scale my mobile transport network to deal with continuous capacity increases and architectural changes in the RAN?
• How do I bring SDN (software defined networks) into my datacenter network?
• How do I turn the growth of video traffic into a service opportunity?
• How do I scale my network infrastructure and become more cost-effective at the same time?

Nokia's IP and optical solution portfolio provides answers to all those challenges. We have built solution packages which are ready for the further engagement. These solutions are:

Mobile transport network covering both fronthaul and backhaul
Carrier SDN
IP routing
Optical transport
IP and optics convergence
Virtualized service router
Network and service management
Network analytics
Network security
Video delivery

Nokia gives high importance to the MEA region and considers it a key market for the growth of IP and optical business. So, we have created various technical competence centers in the region where highly specialized and certified resources are available to work with our customers on broad range of services covering network design, optimization, capacity planning, integration and audit services. Nokia is also providing advanced training and certification program to its customers in the MEA region.

Can you highlight some of the important contracts with operators and other segments in the region?
Nokia is a leading provider of IP and optical solutions in the Middle East and Africa region with a growing installed base. In fact, we are supplier of ION solutions in 51 out of 69 countries in the region. Some of the recent contract wins from our key customers are in the domain of converged transport network, carrier SDN, IP backbone and 100/200/400 G DWDM backbone networks.

Apart from the communication service providers segment, Nokia is successfully building its business in the large enterprise and public safety segments. Here, our focus is on winning the business opportunities to build city level transmission backbone and aggregate the video traffic for public safety networks to accelerate realization of smart city ambitions of many governments across the MEA region.

How does Nokia RBCs (regional business centers) help your customers?
Nokia's operating model of ION business line is based on the concept of RBCs which is an effective way to work closely with our customers. A highly specialized team is available for all our customers in the region which enables us to provide faster response and build an effective partnership.

RBCs are responsible for technical, commercial and delivery capability. In addition, RBC team also gathers customer and market feedback which we utilize in building ION products and solutions, thus making it very compelling for our customers. Our RBC resources are based in all major competence centers across the region. This is a team of certified engineers and technology consultants providing an effective engagement during the entire sales and project delivery cycle.

What details can you share about Nokia's future plans for IP and optical networks in MENA? Are you facing challenges?
Well, Nokia aims to become the number 1 supplier of IP and optical solutions in MEA. We are seeing a good momentum with several engagements in carrier SDN, network analytics, IP routing and optical transport domain. Due to LTE rollouts and focus on data monetization, we see a constant growth in the converged transport domain. At the same time, we also start to see the investments in SD-WAN technology which will help our customers to grow their share of enterprise business in a much more cost-effective manner.

As outlined above, in addition to the communication service providers market, our ambitions are to grow Nokia IP and optical business in the vertical segment which we call GEPS (global enterprise and public sector), so right now we are working on various solutions and associated business plans. We believe there is a lot of potential in this segment to help our customers build mission critical networks and smart cities.

In building solutions for the GEPS market, Nokia's focus is on providing a resilient network which enables non-stop availability of critical applications. It carries all services with no compromise in network performance with high efficiency and flexibility, and extends mobility. Thus, it enables effective, reliable and cost-effective operations for customers.

We also see an upcoming wave of data explosion coming from the maturity of IoT use cases. It will ultimately drive the industrial revolution and investments in building smart networks with dynamic bandwidth allocation, automated provisioning and IP/optics convergence.

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