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The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have put things into perspective for several industries, particularly the telecommunications sector. One of the major lessons learned throughout the pandemic was the importance of extremely reliable networks. Telcos have been indeed the unsung heroes of the pandemic as they have done their part to ensure connectivity which not only made great strides in business continuity but innovation too.

Having a reliable and agile network has become more crucial than ever as businesses across the world are all learning to adapt to the ‘new normal’ as the digital era becomes more of a reality by the day.
Telecom Review managed to secure an interview with Nokia’s Vice President of IP and Optics for the Middle East and Africa market, Roque Lozano, to deep dive into the importance and essential requirements of IP/Optical networks for business continuity and its critical role in building rock-solid 5G networks.

Could you give our readers an overview of Nokia’s IP/Optical Networks portfolio, and your role as the VP of ION at Nokia MEA?

The Nokia IP/Optical (ION) portfolio covers end-to-end network requirements for the whole transport layer and beyond. The network solution covers four major areas - IP technology, (including Packet Core), optical network technology, Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology including our solution from Nuage Networks and our recently launched new generation data center solution. Our solutions support every single layer of the network ranging from the data center, up to the user premises and radio cell towers providing the front, mid, and backhaul- “any-haul” as well as the edge, aggregation, and metro core networks.  It also covers national and international backbones including submarine networks terminals.

At the core of our products are our home-designed proprietary chipsets, and a state-of-the-art, efficient software operating system, which allows us to assure our customers the scalability and flexibility required to ensure differentiated user experience and a faster return on their investment.   

My role as the Vice President of IP & Optics for the Middle East and Africa, Nokia, is to provide a one-stop-shop for all pre-sales and post-sales activities to address our customers’ transport network requirements “and beyond”. We help our customers anticipate user requirements in advance and prepare their networks to deliver the best service possible in time, ahead of the competition. In short, my most important task is to understand MEA market needs and make sure that these needs are adequately addressed, in time, by our Nokia solutions.

Could you provide us with some insight into Nokia’s strategy on providing telcos with networks that are scalable, agile, and fast?

Scalability, agility, and speed are all important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of every network. Another important KPI is security. These four KPIs form the core of our portfolio design and strategies, and we address all of them at the element level (as a single equipment functionality), as well as network level (as an end-to-end network solution). We believe that a key differentiator for our customers is Nokia’s capability to provide end-to-end visibility and control of their network.

Reliable networks have become even more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they allow all of us to work remotely, learn, and shop online and entertain our families. The robustness of these networks was put to the ultimate test during the pandemic, as the networks witnessed sudden spikes in traffic and changes in consumption patterns depending on geography and content.
At Nokia, we have worked with our customers to ensure their networks can withstand these tests through the deployment of state-of-the-art silicon to allow traffic scalability; enablement of insight-driven automation with Nokia’s proprietary software suites that allow detailed traffic profile analysis, and take action accordingly; and having a true partnership and consultative approach with our customers to provide the best solution that fits their needs.

I would like to commend the field force for their determination and personal commitment during this time, and for teaming up with the customer operations teams to keep the networks “always-on”.

What role do IP and Optical Networks technologies play in the 5G ecosystem?
5G is designed to achieve three main objectives - massive capacity for fixed or mobile networking, extremely low latency to support a new array of services such as self-driving cars, and connecting massive numbers of terminals with IoT.  All three objectives can only be achieved if the transmission network (by using IP and Optical network technologies) is stable and works efficiently. The 5G standard is the first one to define in detail, not just the mobile (radio) technology, but also the transmission technologies. It finally recognizes that a full end-to-end approach is necessary to ensure such a quality network. Nokia understood this a few years ago and drove the combination of Alcatel Lucent with Nokia to truly become an end-to-end player as this is the only way to assure the highest quality and performance of 5G networks.

IP and optical networks play a critical role in 5G. They provide the “basement” on top of which the 5G services are built and must be rock solid to enable those services. To keep the network always up and running, the transport layer must be not only agile, flexible, and scalable, but also secure and reliable.

In the context of COVID-19, what sort of obstacles have operators had to deal with in IP/Optical Networks, and what role Nokia plays to help tackle these issues?

COVID -19, and the countries’ response strategies, have accelerated digital transformation across the continent. Telecommunications service providers have had to increase/shift capacity, both from a peak usage time and geographical perspective, to ensure reliable and consistent connectivity for enterprise customers and individual customers alike. Limitations on movement during country-specific lockdowns have also led to the need to reduce physical presence for field activities.

We at Nokia have been supporting our customers in reinforcing both the supply chain to provide additional equipment where needed and the process with remote tools to give to operators and industries visibility of how traffic flows at all times. All this is to maximize the efficiencies of the extensions and avoid critical areas where traffic must be rerouted. As Nokia, we believe that this will help the industry transform even further, improving efficiency and the quality of user experience going forward.

Nokia just recently announced, with great emphasis a new line of Data Center switches. What is so innovative in these new products, and how do you see the impact on the Middle East and Africa?

We strongly believe that any innovation stems directly from customer requirements. The biggest challenge that has emerged from our technical discussions with our Webscale and Data Center partners has been the inability to scale quickly to cope with the growing demand for new services, and architecture, etc. Digital transformation is based on the paradigm that data centers must be able to reconfigure design, offered services, and even the protocol stack at speed, but this is impossible with outdated technology.

Nokia’s new line of data center switches run on LINUX (SR-Linux), giving customers the capability to directly customize key features such as security, automation, and even networking protocol definition, while also providing a library of features for those customers that do not want to invest in specific customization. We believe that this new product will accelerate the digitalization journey of countries in MEA, fast-tracking transformational projects, and boosting a new generation of digital services in the region.

This allows us to take the network one step further and provide end-to-end, reliable, and secured networks from ’inside’ the data centers to the Customer premises.


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