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Nokia’s commitment to digital transformation has translated into digital transformation guidance to customers, including CSPs and enterprises. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Danial Mausoof, head of sales for mobile networks in Middle East and Africa, Nokia highlighted how the company is helping CSPs and enterprises to grow in the digital age.

Congratulations on your recent appointment as head of sales, mobile networks Middle East and Africa (MEA). Can you briefly tell what does your new role mean for CSPs and enterprises?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Telecom Review. I am very excited to be leading sales of mobile networks for Nokia in MEA. The primary objective of the role is to lead a best-in-class solutioning and presales for all our customers and co-create network evolution strategies by introducing newer segments and technologies such as 5G, O-RAN, virtualized RAN (vRAN), private wireless, to name a few, for all communication services providers (CSPs) as well as enterprise customers.

Nokia is pretty much active in the O-RAN and vRAN space. Why are you interested in these two technologies? And what’s the difference between them?

O-RAN and vRAN are an opportunity to drive innovation in radio networks, thanks to a wider variety of players. These concepts are crucial for the introduction of more intelligence (AI/ML) with the RAN intelligent controller (RIC) for network automation. Recently in an interview with Telecom Review, Tommi Uitto, president of mobile networks at Nokia stated, O-RAN is not a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘when.’ Hence, we are well positioned to lead and are actively collaborating with operators as they embark on shaping their strategy around O-RAN deployments. We were also the first major vendor to join the O-RAN alliance and O-RAN policy coalition.

O-RAN and vRAN are inherently interlinked but they have some essential differences:

O-RAN’s objective is primarily to standardize open interfaces between different elements of a base station (remote unit, distributed unit and central unit), in addition to the introduction of more intelligence in the network through the RIC function. In other words, O-RAN can be looked at as a vertical disaggregation of the RAN with standardized interfaces.

vRAN, on the other hand, is about virtualizing the BTS baseband functions and running them with GPP (general purpose processors) on top of COTS (commercial over the shelf) computing platform, instead of purpose-built hardware that is the case today. In other words, vRAN is the horizontal disaggregation of the BTS functions and hardware/software separation.  

It is often said that CSPs and enterprises need to adopt web-scale functionalities to grow in the digital age. How is Nokia helping CSPs acquire these functionalities? What are your recent partnerships in this field?

In line with our strong commitments in O-RAN and vRAN, partnerships will be a key enabler for deployment strategy. We need to develop high-value, high-accuracy 5G use cases that enable our customers, both enterprises and CSPs, to accelerate their digital transformation journey. To further advance these and continue our path towards network openness, we announced agreements with Microsoft to develop use cases targeted for enterprises over private wireless networks. This is a start of a long-standing collaboration where we will use solutions such as cloud RAN, RIC and mobile edge computing (MEC) with the Azure platform. The targeted outcome is to leverage MS Azure solutions and bring data processing closer to end-users ultimately addressing requirements of ultra-low latency, high 5G throughput type of applications such as immersive gaming and real-time robotics to name a few.

We also announced partnerships with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services where we will enable CSPs and enterprises with 5G connectivity to leverage the web-scale player’s agility and scalability capabilities to simplify the automation and virtualization of their networks. 

As the partner of leading telecom operators in the industry, how do you drive improved performance proactively for them?

Network performance is a key measure for our customer’s success, especially as data consumption continues to increase. We constantly work with our customers to improve network performance, thereby helping them to enhance the subscriber experience.

Our experts proactively use market intelligence from crowdsource platforms, like Ookla or Tutela, to benchmark and gather a valuable view of our customer’s performance and capacity. This helps us get a ‘subscribers’ view of networks and recommend further performance enhancements, either via relevant features, capacity expansions or enhancement programs.

During these unprecedented times and arrival of 5G, these efforts have enabled our customers to ensure that sudden traffic growth, such as what we saw during lockdowns in certain countries, do not cause capacity constraints. We are able also to use an advanced analytical analysis to provide consultation on how to better monetize network capacity.         

Furthermore, Nokia has invested in a digital deploy framework. Using this framework, we create precise digital designs targeted towards use-case requirements of our customers. This allows us to ensure accuracy from design to deployment. The framework extends towards the final acceptance of these sites and our customers can manage and ensure the best quality.

Post acceptance, we provide services using patented and proprietary tools and approach towards further optimizing and maintaining the high performance of their network.

We also offer our self-organised network (SON) portfolio to our customers who require a higher level of digitalization and automation in their operations and work proactively toward continuous improvements in their network.

Self-organizing networks (SON) can bring about many benefits to telecom operators. What are the main benefits? And what does Nokia offer in terms of SON technologies?

Automation is becoming pervasive in technology nowadays. We are working towards a portfolio where automation is embedded to help CSPs use automation to improve network performance, optimise costs and manage legacy network infrastructure.

Networks today are incredibly complex, and automation is crucial to simplify the workings of the networks for greater efficiencies. From radio configuration at the start to creating efficient use of 5G. With the advent of network slicing, CSPs can use SON today to allow network slicing per service, per user or per application to ensure the most optimum utilization of their network assets.

The closed-loop automation and predictive ML aspects of SON ensure that we are able to boost network quality, customer experience and significantly offload some of the workload of the operational staff, freeing up their time towards more strategic and productive tasks. 

Today our customers can select predefined modules that can be easily deployed to create self-healing and self-optimizing action, immediately providing benefits to network operators. In addition, Nokia SON follows our commitment to OPEN standards, Open APIs and SDKs. We also foster innovation through the EdenNet Developer Community, which runs on cloud-native architecture. Furthermore, SON plays an important role in O-RAN that we discussed earlier; it allows ML-based orchestration of different traffic steering methodologies and optimization and load balancing features.

We have recently announced that Nokia SON will be used by Orange and its affiliates for optimization. This extends to all sites, including non-Nokia sites as Nokia SON supports multivendor deployments.

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