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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Danial Mausoof, head of sales for mobile networks, Nokia Middle East and Africa, shares his company’s expertise in network optimization and its Technology Vision 2030, which will shape the network infrastructure in the MEA region.

How does Nokia ensure network performance that is critical for both CSPs and enterprise customers?

As a B2B technology innovation leader, Nokia employs a holistic approach to ensure network performance for CSPs and enterprise customers. This holistic approach encompasses all aspects, ranging from robust network planning and design to the selection of high-performance products, high-quality deployment and continuous monitoring and assurance of network performance.

Nokia's Network Planning Services offer a comprehensive and customized approach to designing networks. By harnessing advanced tools, methodologies and analytics, we cater to the unique needs of networks, ensuring optimal utilization of resources.

When it comes to product performance, our market-leading AirScale portfolio offers advanced features, reliable performance and scalability, allowing operators to meet the increasing demands of their customers while staying competitive in the evolving telecommunications landscape.

For Network Performance Monitoring, Nokia provides advanced real-time monitoring and analysis tools. These tools, utilizing AI/ML technology, provide actionable insights and recommendations that can be utilized to enhance network performance.

Lastly, Nokia's Network Performance Optimization and Assurance solution offers a comprehensive suite of tools and services to assure the highest quality of service and customer experience. These solutions incorporate automation capabilities to streamline network operations and reduce manual intervention.

In the MEA region, Nokia's AirScale products have made a significant impact, having been adopted by 58 customers spanning 36 countries, a testament to their reliability and effectiveness. Moreover, 35 clients in the MEA region are reaping the benefits of Nokia's Network Planning and Optimization (NPO) services, a clear indicator of our commitment to provide innovative solutions that drive customer satisfaction and operational excellence.

Can you share network performance figures relevant to the MEA region? How have these changed over the years, and how do you see this continuing to evolve?

In terms of network performance, the MEA region can be divided into two distinct areas: the Middle East and Africa. These regions show significant differences in User Equipment (UE) ecosystems and end-user behavior, largely influenced by their unique social and economic structures. This results in a broad spectrum of considerations, ranging from the introduction of new technologies to the long-term evolution of traffic.

Prominent trends that are distinctly observed in the MEA region include:

  1. Data traffic continues to increase at an exponential pace. In GCC countries, 5G data traffic has already exceeded 3G, according to Nokia’s latest MEA Broadband Index report.
  2. Overall, 94% of MEA voice traffic is on 2G/3G, and only 6% is on VoLTE. In GCC countries, adoption of 5G and VoLTE services is observed to be much higher than the rest of the MEA; e.g., VoLTE traffic share exceeds 50% among major operators of the GCC.
  3. The GCC is currently the most mature region in terms of the 5G device ecosystem, with approximately 36% of the UEs having 5G capability. However, many 5G-capable devices are still connected to the 4G layer due to a lack of 5G coverage. 5G coverage enhancement will increase the overall 5G traffic share.
  4. Overheating of 5G User Equipment (UE) is a notable issue observed by operators in the region. This overheating can sometimes cause UEs to drop the 5G connection, leading to a poor user experience and posing a potential obstacle to the growth of 5G technology.
  5. In the Gulf region, a significant increase in 5G residential FWA traffic has been observed. For one of the leading operators, 5G FWA traffic share has reached 87% compared to a 13% LTE traffic share.
  6. Nokia has also been very actively involved in sustainability initiatives across the MEA. In 2022, these initiatives yielded encouraging outcomes:
    • A 6% to 10% decrease in RAN energy consumption with the help of Nokia's AI-based SON Energy Saving Module.
    • Up to 10% reduction in power consumption with smart Network Planning and Optimization services.
    • Up to 15% energy savings with RAN SW features such as Intelligent switch-off of unused resources with Micro DTX, Cell switch-off, MIMO muting and Deep sleep modes.

What are the key challenges impacting network performance in the MEA region, and how will you continue to thoroughly address these?

Among the array of challenges, the predominant ones include:

  1. Exponential data traffic growth and operational complexity due to the proliferation of data-hungry wireless devices are pushing networks to their capacity limits and introducing planning and optimization complexities.
  2. 5G network usage does not follow UE ecosystem growth, and more than half of 5G UE-capable devices are not camping on 5G.
  3. Despite good adoption in GCC countries, VoLTE penetration is fairly low in the rest of the MEA region.

Operators can implement certain strategies to overcome these challenges:

  1. Reduce network complexity by timely sunsetting legacy technologies. This will also give additional flexibility of very precious low-band refarming to improve 5G coverage and prepare 5G networks for standalone transition.
  2. By migrating voice traffic to VoLTE, operators can free up the spectrum used by legacy 2G and 3G networks for other purposes, such as expanding their 4G or 5G coverage or refarming the spectrum for new services.
  3. Migration from NSA to SA network is the key for full-fledged usage of 5G’s diverse capabilities.
  4. Reducing OPEX through automation initiatives such as Self-Organizing Networks (SON) solutions. Having deployed more than 2.5 million cells by 36 operators in MEA, Nokia SON has achieved significant improvements, including a 21% improvement in downlink throughput, a 32% reduction in early handovers and a +30% improvement in voice call drop rate.

From your perspective, why is network performance significant to fulfilling Nokia’s Technology Vision 2030 and the company’s gearing up for the next technological era?

Nokia's Technology Vision 2030 outlines a trajectory of how future advancements in technology will transform the world by the year 2030. It implies a shift from a "one-size-fits-all" connectivity approach to specialized networks optimized for specific service needs. The vision also emphasizes the potential transformative effects of Metaverse technology, Cloud Computing and Web3, identifying them as the areas that could have the most significant influences as we approach the year 2030.

To unlock the potential of the emerging opportunities, the network must fulfill specific performance criteria, such as:

  1. Agility to support the widest range of Metaverse use cases: including the capability for rapid setup and take-down of localized or private networks.
  2. Distributed, flexible service instantiation: enabling network resources to be deployed dynamically to provide the best user experience while maximizing resource utilization.
  3. Enhanced symmetrical capacity: capability to provide the increased capacities symmetrically, both in downlink and uplink.
  4. Sensing, positioning and context-awareness: enabling networks to adapt to user needs autonomously.
  5. Intent-based autonomy: allowing for the most advanced artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML)-driven, zero-touch automation possible.
  6. Sustainability and efficiency: allowing the network to both extend its handprint and dramatically reduce its footprint.

Nokia’s new visual identity, “the power of n,” also resonates well with this transformation vision.

We believe networks are the catalysts for change, fueling the innovation that can transform businesses, society and the world. Our wide range of products and services can help customers build and manage more intelligent, interconnected networks and tap their “exponential” potential.

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