Ten years ago, in April 2008, renowned San Diego-based chipset maker Qualcomm Incorporated announced its expansion into the Middle East and Africa. The ambitious city of Dubai was chosen as Qualcomm's regional hub, where an office was opened in Dubai Internet City (DIC) Free Trade Zone to serve the company's business interests. Ten years on, Telecom Review reflects on Qualcomm's role in influencing new technologies in the region.
The Middle East and Africa region was witnessing impressive growth in both the quantity and quality of telecommunication services, Qualcomm said in a statement, announcing the launch of its Dubai office in 2008. The company touted the new hub as enabling Qualcomm to serve the region more effectively, adding that Qualcomm was pleased to expand its presence in "this exciting market."
Qualcomm's activities in the region have been directed by Jay Srage, who has held the position of president, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa since January 2016, having previously been appointed VP and president of Qualcomm MEA in July 2008. Srage has overseen the company's role in spearheading activities with the operators in the region, driving advanced LTE products on the road towards 5G.
Srage was recognized by Telecom Review as 'Industry President of the Year' at the 2017 Telecom Review Summit in Dubai, for his role in leading Qualcomm's business operations in the region and managing its strategic relationships with regional customers, including network operators and infrastructure equipment providers.
Qualcomm's Dubai branch began with a team of six which gradually grew to 100 across the region by 2013 with more than 30 employees stationed in Dubai. Strong backend support from the United States and China provided additional support for Qualcomm's Dubai branch.
The Dubai office's focus started with 4G migration for carriers, and soon evolved to include the full ecosystem engaging the retail and online channel with sales and activations, engineering services supporting network planning, deployment and audit/optimization, and relationships with the government regulators influencing telecom policies, Srage told Telecom Review.
"The impact was nothing short of amazing in the key markets we supported moving the mobile broadband service to the masses," he said.
Leading the industry to 5G
Qualcomm has a vision of leading the world to 5G through its technology solutions that facilitate its path towards commercial launch in 2019. Unlike previously launched new technologies, we are no longer in the process of defining the use cases for 5G. The use cases for the next generation technology are clear, and have been adopted by multiple industries. Now it's just a matter of making it happen, Srage explained, speaking at the Telecom Review Summit in Dubai in December 2017.
"What we've done in the last 20 years is mostly connecting people to people and connecting people to information. As we move into 5G, we'll be connecting everything. Every product design across industries will assume intelligence and connectivity," said Srage. "This is a transformation in terms of not just communication but in economic development."
He also delivered an expert insight on 5G and how it will enable an era of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning. Many individuals and companies pushing for 5G, AI and blockchain, but few have actually put the applications of those three future changing technologies together. Putting those technologies together will unlock the digital transformation for many of those industries (finance, legal, automotive, supply chain and more).
"With 3G and 4G, human intelligence controlled the smartphones and their interactions with applications. As 5G connects IoT and the device ecosystem, it becomes imperative that those devices build up inherent intelligence to manage the inter-device interaction and communication," he said. "5G becomes closely tied to machine learning, AI and the underlying infrastructure such as blockchain."
According to a recent study, 5G is expected to generate $12 trillion of goods and services worldwide by 2035. "If you take the typical seven to eight percent that the Middle East region gets, we're talking about $1 trillion in economic growth coming into the Middle East from 5G," Srage said. "That's why it's extremely important for the ecosystem players, the carriers and all the device manufacturers to build up the infrastructure around 5G and enable these new goods and services."
"We're talking about a transformation in automotive and infotainment, but there's also the transformation of healthcare industry using robotics, remote diagnostics and prevention, and so many other applications," Srage added. "And we're going to see varying adoption rates across these industries building up to a comprehensive economic development."
Qualcomm contributions to the region, Mr. Srage's vision to localize the global strategy, enable new advanced technology implementation in the region and grow technology leadership from the region
The UAE's largest telecommunications provider, Etisalat, has enjoyed a strong relationship with Qualcomm over the years. In March 2017, Qualcomm and Etisalat signed a strategic agreement to work together to advance the development of next generation network technologies. The collaboration would focus on accelerating 5G standardization to bring forward the possibility of commercially available 5G networks as early as 2019.
"By working together and engaging with the wider mobile ecosystem, Etisalat Group and Qualcomm Technologies aim to advance the preparatory development of 5G enabling us to make the service commercial available quicker than expected, which will enhance our customers' experience," said Hatem Bamatraf, Etisalat's chief technology officer.
A further collaboration with Qualcomm saw Etisalat announce the first Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call over Cat-M1 IoT network in the region in November 2017. The test set the future roadmap to deploy advanced networks to meet demands for diversified mobile broadband and communication services for IoT.
Similarly, at Mobile World Congress 2016 that was held in Barcelona, STC's CEO, Dr. Khaled Hussain Al Biyari (now former CEO), signed an agreement with Qualcomm, represented by its president, Qualcomm MEA & Eastern Europe, Jay Srage, in view of establishing a strategic collaboration between both companies in the field of modern and advanced solutions in various domains related to data technology and new generations communications.
This strategic agreement includes the various usages and publications of technologies such as those used by smart cities, smart homes and smart transportation as well as the internet of things, a technology aimed at the new generation of internet.
Furthermore, the agreement includes the collaboration to introduce and present the most recent technology solutions in the third and fourth generations' networks and their development through the experience of the chips group at the companies associated with Qualcomm Inc. and its consistency with the Saudi telecom market.
On the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) front, Qualcomm management represented by Jay Srage signed an agreement during Mobile World Congress 2018 to support DarkMatter in introducing the latest in smartphone security technology working directly to support deep research and development to make it one of the flagship companies to emerge globally from the UAE.
Qualcomm also followed a strategy of introducing new OEMs that are powerhouses in their own countries but still haven't made it to the region. The support of bringing new OEMs to the region brings along with it new services, more selection and better affordability leading to mass data usage adoption.
Xiaomi is an example of how Qualcomm supported a high-brand OEM in China to make its way to the Middle East, and became number four in Egypt in less than a year after launching. The KPIs were clear to establish 3.5Mu sales in the MENA region in the first year of launch making Xiaomi a formidable player through engineering test and type approvals, channel setup and go-to-market campaign. Marketing played a very key role in establishing the smartphone channel.
Mohamed Kesiba, director of MEA Marketing, had the challenge to establish the Qualcomm brand as a technology influencer. Kesiba influenced customer purchase decisions, especially those entering the market for the first time.
"We engaged multiple players in the channel to establish the triple brand promotion," said Mohamed Kesiba. "We relied on our strong partners' marketing engines and contributed through our global assets of social media, strong advertising content, activations, brand campaigns and structured sales incentives."
An example of a successful program managed by Mohamed was the online channel activation with Jumia, Orange Egypt, and key OEM partners like Xiaomi, LG, Lenovo and others. The program relied on Jumia's established marketing campaigns to promote smartphones, on top of which Orange Egypt leveraged and supported its "4GforAll" campaign, topped by a strong OEM portfolio and finally promoted globally and locally through Qualcomm marketing funds and assets. The program had a substantial impact accelerating 4G migration and driving user awareness and usage based on the technology deployed in early 2017.
Expanding its presence in the region, Qualcomm opened its first office in Turkey in 2011. The company collaborated with ICT solutions provider Huawei and Vodafone Turkey in February 2017 to create the world's first network using Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology at the Vodafone Arena stadium in Istanbul.
More recently, Qualcomm signed a patent deal with General Mobile in October 2017, giving the Turkish handset manufacturer access to its cellular portfolio. The agreement allows General Mobile to develop and manufacture Android devices based on Qualcomm's 3G and 4G patents.
General Mobile counts operators such as Turkcell as customers, and is a partner of Google's Android One program, which provides a stripped down version of Android which manufacturers can include in low cost devices.