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In the midst of GITEX 2021, Telecom Review secured a one-on-one interview with Fadi Pharaon, Ericsson’s president at the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. He clearly reiterated how the telecom vendor actively collaborates with the telecom operators in the region and how they aim to bring hybrid experiences to life.

Fadi pointed out that MEA is the most dynamic region for telcos and the 5G rollout in the GCC countries has been accelerating more than any other location in the world. Maintaining its reputation in the region, Ericsson plays a very meaningful role in the standardization of 5G and 6G technologies.

Ericsson’s new purpose and vision focus on the possibilities of limitless connectivity. How would this be demonstrated in the MEA region?

We're very proud of this new vision and narrative. Basically, we wanted to demonstrate our limitless connectivity characterized by a combination of 5G, artificial intelligence, cloud, and IoT. We respond to the demands of how to inspire lives, how to transform industries, and how to take sustainability into many of the opportunities that we see.

With active collaboration with telecom operators in the region, what is the growth outlook of Ericsson in this market for the next five to ten years?

I think this region is the most dynamic right now in terms of the telecom industry. We forecast that five years from today, you will see 62 million 5G subscribers in the GCC countries, which would stand by that time, up to 75% of the total of all their mobile subscriptions. That would be probably only second to North America in terms of 5G penetration.

If we look at the rollout of 5G that we have seen in the GCC countries, it's also second to none. There's a lot of anticipation in terms of having this incredible innovation platform — what kind of applications will we see coming in due time? What kind of gadgets and accessories? And most importantly, how can we contribute to the digitalization of different sectors like mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, and ports, that will be able to become much more productive, cost-efficient, safe, and contribute to a better environment.

I believe a lot of it will be led and pioneered by this region. We at Ericsson want to play a very leading role with our partners, the ecosystem, and the operators that we serve to do that together.

Out of Ericsson’s broad range of products and solutions, which ones do you expect to progress further in terms of enterprise and consumer use cases?

For us, it's not a matter of a product. Instead, it’s about how to put together a solution that makes sense to the end-user. And especially when we talk about industrial enterprise, it will always be customized requirements.

For instance, a manufacturing plant would require very low latency to have a specific, dedicated network for 5G. If you do that they can have automated guided vehicles that go around and pick up the goods from one shelf and deliver to the other. No need to have manual handling. Other types of industries might require hundreds of thousands of sensors that when implemented, create a kind of a digital twin of the physical environment to try and control. Hence, you can do experimentation on that digital twin before you apply it to the physical world. As a result, you can cut down time and increase production.

Overall, it's really about putting the solutions together based on all of the products and services that we provide.

With your GITEX presence this year, can you elaborate on what can people experience at your stand? 

When people enter the Ericsson booth, the first thing that greets them is the ‘Imagined Possible’ logo. And for us, we are demonstrating some consumer-led cases here.

If you are a sports enthusiast, you can visit our demo which talks about how the immersive experience will be when you watch a football match for instance in the stadium. You point your smartphone to the goalie, and with the support of augmented reality, immediately you will see a pop-up with tons of interesting statistics and history about that goalie. Even maybe some forecasts based on the previous shoots of the ball he has received. It’s really integrating digital experience with the physical one and ensuring that people get more depth.

Another experience can be similar to when you're walking down the street and you can see an advertisement, with the digital augmented reality, you can click on it, you can see a 3D model of it, and you can purchase it.

Moreover, there is also a lot of enterprise cases where we demonstrate businesses’ return on investment.

Amid competitors, how would Ericsson continuously maintain its reputation and influence within the MEA region?

The telecom industry is very big, so all of us have a role to play here. We are playing a very big meaningful role in the standardization of these technologies, not only 5G but even the work for 6G has already started even if it’s 10 years ahead of us.

In addition, we bring a slew of partners ranging from startup companies up to system integrators and our R&D contribution which we are very proud of. This is why today, we are in fact leading the 5G race. If you look at the number of 5G live networks, we are nearing the 101, proving that we are a very capable company and we are very proud of what our teams are delivering to our customers.

What more can telcos expect from Ericsson with regards to making their digital transformation journey successful?

Telcos can rely on us in terms of bringing the best practices from all over the world. Ericsson is present in more than 180 countries. So any type of cases that we are part of, we are bringing that knowledge, we are adapting it to the local conditions, and we are working in harmony with our operators to deploy that. This is what they're asking us to do today and we will do our best to fulfill their requirements.

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