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In an exclusive interview, Vanness You, Vice President, Huawei Middle East & Central Asia Carrier Business Group, explains how Huawei is addressing the specific needs, challenges, and preferences of the region's consumers and business.

To begin, could you paint a picture of the current 5G market in the Middle East in comparison to the global landscape? How would you evaluate its growth and development so far?

As of 2023, the Middle East has seen substantial growth in the adoption of 5G technology. The region was among the first wave of the initial rollout, during the last five years, we have witnessed an aggressive push in the Middle Eastern countries to establish a robust 5G infrastructure. Currently, there are 17 commercial 5G network in the region, covers 48 million population. Many of the major cities across countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain have now been covered with 5G networks, with further plans for expansion into suburban and rural areas.

Governments in the region have been supportive, recognizing the transformative potential of 5G. There have been numerous initiatives, investments, and collaborations with global 5G equipment vendors to accelerate deployment.

The growth rate of 5G adoption in the Middle East has been commendable, especially considering the challenges posed by geopolitical issues and the diverse nature of the region. Also, the region's vast wealth, coupled with its strategic desire to diversify from oil, offers numerous opportunities. 5G can play a crucial role in digital transformation initiatives, including smart cities, automation in industries, telemedicine, and more.

Last but not the least, a positive trend in the Middle East has been the openness to collaborate. Many countries have partnered with global vendors and tech companies like Huawei to facilitate a smoother and more efficient rollout of 5G technology.

Can you walk us through Huawei’s journey in deploying 5G solutions in the Middle East? What were the key milestones and achievements you're most proud of?

Huawei initiated its 5G network deployment in the Middle East in 2018, collaborating with nine operators. By 2019, 15 operators had rolled out 5G services. As of now, the 5G network boasts 24 million 5G subscribers. This includes 2.5 million FWA households and 60,000 5G private lines.

Leveraging a suite of Huawei's cutting-edge wireless technologies, such as 64T64R and a range of Massive MIMO technologies (including Dual-band, distributive MIMO, Active+Passive Massive MIMO, and 128 antenna configurations), we've set numerous benchmarks in 5G downlink speeds. Notable achievements include a peak speed of 1.8Gbps in the 100Mhz band in 2019 and 3.6Gbps in the 200Mhz bands in 2021. In 2022, we reached a landmark by testing speeds in the 300Mhz bands and achieving a peak speed of 10Gbps in 2023. This progress sets the stage for pioneering 10Giga initiatives throughout the region, underpinned by even more sophisticated technologies in ELAA, 50PON, 400G and all scenario IoTs.

How has Huawei adapted its 5G solutions to meet the specific needs and preferences of Middle Eastern consumers and businesses? Are there any innovative features or applications you've developed with this market in mind?

Huawei has provided 5G solutions in the Middle East during the last five years, working with our partners, we have adapted our solutions to address the specific needs, challenges, and preferences of the region's consumers and business.

We recognize the importance of aligning our solutions with the regulatory requirements of the Middle East. This can range from adapting spectrum needs to ensuring data privacy in line with local laws.

The Middle East's harsh desert environment, characterized by extreme temperatures and frequent sandstorms, poses significant challenges to equipment durability. Recognizing this, Huawei has engineered robust 5G equipment capable of enduring these conditions without sacrificing performance. Additionally, as global awareness about carbon footprints grows, Huawei remains committed to collaborating with operators to deploy technology and solutions that are both efficient and sustainable, ensuring no compromise in user experience.

Considering the Middle East's ambitious national projects and its wealthy segments that demand high quality services, Huawei focuses on deploying solution to accommodate high bandwidth applications like high-definition streaming, and advanced gaming solutions that cater to these specific needs.

Local Partnerships and collaborations often are critical in ensuring timely deployment. Huawei has formed strategic alliances with local companies for infrastructure deployment, service delivery, and maintenance. Such collaborations ensure that the solutions are more in line with regional needs while also fostering local talent and business growth.

Recognizing the Middle East's growing enterprise digital transformation needs, working with our partners, Huawei offered 5G solutions tailored for industries like oil and gas, healthcare, and finance. These industry-specific solutions cater to unique needs. To ensure the successful adoption of 5G, Huawei often engage in educational campaigns and training sessions for businesses. This helps in familiarizing the audience with the benefits and capabilities of 5G.

With rising cyber threats and the importance of data in the 5G era, vendors emphasize advanced security solutions that adhere to the highest standards, ensuring the trust of consumers and businesses in the region.

Innovation in developing 5G services, such as Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), has been crucial to the successful deployment by mobile operators in the Middle East. Given the challenges of deploying fibre-optic cables in the region due to various factors and infrastructure constraints, FWA offers a viable and efficient wireless alternative. This approach provides quick, cost-effective high-speed internet access, eliminating the need for extensive groundwork. Bolstered by 5G, FWA addresses the region's increasing home broadband demands and was instrumental in enabling remote work during COVID. As FWA technology continues to advance, a wider variety of devices will become accessible. Alongside an expanded spectrum resource, future FWA services can cater to premium users with speeds of up to 1Gbps. Plus, the introduction of more affordable devices will make home broadband services even more economical. In conjunction with 5G's reliability, FWA promises unwavering connectivity, benefiting businesses, particularly SMEs, and further spurring economic growth and innovation in the region.

Finally, with the rapid evolution of technology, where do you see the future of 5G in the Middle East headed? And how is Huawei positioning itself for this future?

5G technology has revolutionized service scenarios, applications, and business models, opening doors for unprecedented growth opportunities. As we anticipate the needs of digital transformation for both consumers and industries, the natural progression leads us to 5.5G and beyond. This evolution promises even more advanced capabilities, with faster speeds and enhanced connectivity to accommodate the rising number of connected devices and emerging applications.

However, with technological advancements come new challenges, especially around security and privacy. Addressing these concerns with robust measures is crucial. The true measure of a new technology's success lies in its capacity to deliver value to its users and respond to their ever-changing needs.

The introduction of 5.5G marks a pivotal moment in mobile broadband communication's journey. With its potential to amplify network capabilities tenfold, 5.5G aims to support a 10 Gbps experience everywhere, paving the way for 100 billion connections and introducing native intelligence to numerous services.

It's noteworthy that several operators and regulators have joined hands with Huawei to champion the vision of a "10Giga society" or "10Giga nation." Our proposed 5.5G era concept aligns with this vision, urging our partners to realize these ambitious objectives. This multi-dimensional approach leverages technology across various domains to consistently deliver a 10Gbps experience. For instance, the wireless domain taps into wider spectrums, superior spectral efficiency, and advanced MIMO. In contrast, the optical fibre domain harnesses technologies like FTTR, 50G PON, and 800G. Simultaneously, the data communication network sphere integrates Net5.5G innovations, featuring 800GE interfaces, cutting-edge slicing technology, and smart scheduling algorithms.

Transitioning to the 5.5G era necessitates a united effort from all industry stakeholders. This shared endeavour promises a brighter, smarter world brimming with opportunities for growth and innovation, the implications of which will be exhilarating to witness.

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