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Technological developments offer vast opportunities for telecommunications and technology companies to improve their performance and compete on a global scale. The greatest responsibility lies within service providers, whose role has become essential to secure a special experience for clients.

In an exclusive interview to Telecom Review, Mikko Lavanti, head of mobile networks, MEA, Nokia, talks about the most important activities that the company will be focusing on during the next phase, and the opportunities Nokia offers at the regional scene.

Congratulations on being recently appointed as head of mobile networks for the Middle East and Africa. Can you explain what does your new role mean for Nokia customers, and how is your experience in previous roles an added value to support them?

I am delighted to join Nokia's mobile networks team in the Middle East and Africa market during these interesting times, both for Nokia and our customers, as the region emerges from the pandemic. 

Our solutions enable service providers, industries and the public sector to create the critical networks that bring together the world's people, machines and devices.

In my career, spanning over 30 years, I worked for an operator, few vendors and have held leadership positions at both global and regional levels in business, sales and delivery. I have a rich experience of working in several geographies, including China, the USA, Germany, and Turkey.

I am known to have a growth mindset, and I believe in having fun while working. With our incredible team and customers, we will bring the right solution and value to further improve the mobile networks in the MEA region.

Nokia is already a leader, and I hope to further advance Nokia's presence and footprint here. 

MEA is a diverse market in terms of technology adoption. What kind of challenges and opportunities do you see for Nokia?

In 1997, I started my career as a site engineer working on technological solutions for different kind of deployments, and over the years I took different leadership positions working closely with customers from around the world. More recently, at Nokia, I was running a region including 23 countries spanning East Europe, Caspian, and Central Asia regions. This experience helped me in understanding and addressing the diverse telecom needs of customers in different geographies. 

MEA is a fascinating region. On one end, the Gulf countries have one of the highest 5G adoption rates and on the other end, there are rural areas that lack basic connectivity. The challenges of our CSPs customers differ from monetizing their 5G investments for example or energy saving, to connecting the unconnected in rural areas. So, we have to adapt our solutions and approach to address a wide range of requirements and diverse needs.

It is very important that we work closely with our customers in both high ARPU and low ARPU markets to identify technological and commercial solutions that cater to their requirements. 

At Nokia, we look at the network evolution in line with the business objectives of the customer, instead of looking at it as a pure technological exercise.  

As we evolve our customer's networks, we design and deploy solutions that cater for the increased network traffic and enable our customer to grow in enterprise sector.

We also focus on energy saving and sustainability. Our sustainability approach provides the structure and focus for all our activities. At the core of our approach is the belief that our technology improves people’s lives.

As a responsible organization, we take responsibility for our actions and impact on the world, minimizing potential negative impacts while maximizing the many potential positive impacts of the technology we create and deliver. We are looking forward to further collaborating with our customers here in MEA on sustainability initiatives. 

As 5G becomes a reality, what should be the CSPs’ strategy for long-term 5G monetization?

The early adopters of 5G are focusing on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA), with emphasis on speed and boosting 5G coverage. We see also some focus on 5G-enabled services, such as cloud gaming, UHD videos and AR/VR. At the same time, the interest in enterprise sector is considerable and we see a lot of pre-commercial explorations of 5G use cases across many verticals. 

The 5G economy enables a new breed of use cases and business models, including network slicing and network-as-a-service (NaaS) offerings, IoT and new business models for B2B2X services. Monetization solutions for the 5G era need to be flexible to support a wide range of business models and ecosystem partners to drive new revenue.

While the initial 5G revenues are driven by eMBB and 5G FWA, some of our customers are building networks with superior performance and automation capabilities designed to boost the customer experience and address the enterprise needs.

For a successful 5G monetization the key is to time the heavy 5G investments in the dense areas with the increased potential for 5G traffic growth. This needs to be complemented with a 5G coverage layer across rural and sub-urban areas. Here our NPO and digital deploy services will help.  

As I mentioned, the investments on locally relevant 5G and private wireless use cases will play a massive role in unlocking growth in enterprise business and will require some crucial sales skills.

From a strategic point of view, cloudification of RAN, in addition to core network evolution in alignments with Open RAN, are key decisions for our customers over the next few years. 

What will Nokia focus on in 2022 in terms of mobile networks?

We would be focusing on evolving our go-to-market strategy in line with the evolving needs of our customers. We would be coming up with new products and services to help our customers to continue to grow.

Regarding mobile networks, our industry-leading and energy-efficient AirScale range of products for 5G and LTE support the region's service providers. It is also extremely energy-efficient and comes in a small factor, thus helping the service providers improve the network's cost economics. Nokia has also taken a leadership position in advanced solutions such as network slicing and 5G SA.

We are working with most of the CSPs in the region and we look forward to growing our footprint in telecom, government and enterprise segments. 

As a responsible global technology leader, Nokia is committed to adopting and promoting sustainable practices as we provide technology that helps the world act together.

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