interview


Nawras CTO: “LTE is moving the region into the lead”

Wolfgang Wemhoff is CTO of Nawras, Oman,

Wolfgang Wemhoff is CTO of Nawras, Oman,

Wolfgang Wemhoff is CTO of Nawras, Oman, part of the Qtel Group. He is speaking at the LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai. Ahead of the show we speak to him on where Nawras is with this LTE deployment and learn more about the technical challenges it is facing.

What major developments have there been with regards to the LTE industry in the MEA region this past year?

The MEA region tends to be an innovator and LTE technology is moving the region into the lead with this significant technology development. Looking at the market in Oman, there have been several major advances related to LTE this year. One is the availability of new spectrum to be used for LTE – 1800 for LTE-FDD and 2300 for LTE-TDD. At Nawras we have chosen LTE 1800-FDD because there are a greater variety of compatible devices available for our customers, including the iPhone5 and the iPad.

LTE is a mature technology with a very quick market adoption, which makes it stable and predictable technology-wise. New Single RAN technologies allow for a far more flexible use of the available frequencies, combined with advantages on the radio side, when compared to the former RAN technologies.

Pricing for LTE is a controversial subject. Are operators getting it right?

We are currently seeing a spectrum of pricing ranging from premium, to ‘business as usual’.  LTE is a premium service and provides a new customer experience with a greater quality and depth.  Customers will be able to see and feel the difference between 2G and 3G and between 3G and LTE.

The LTE MENA conference is taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai.

Does it make sense to think of LTE as a fixed line replacement in certain cases?

LTE is a technology, not a way of life.  Customers want to enjoy broadband on the move or at home – wherever they are.  LTE will deliver this service. The fixed or mobile debate is going to be a conversation we have less and less often, as we will have fixed for mobile and mobile for fixed with converged services.

We are planning for a seamless integrated solution for our customers, which will offer a selection for all customer needs as we utilise 2G, 3G, LTE and WiMAX. Services, and the devices they are used on, are merging and changing very quickly, so it will be key to be able to support the services that our customers are looking for in the most flexible and efficient way.

What are the chief technical challenges you are facing?

Customers are very aware of the data download speeds and most are familiar with upload speeds.  Fewer however are aware of latency issues and very few appreciate the amount of signaling that is generated by the number of smartphones and tablets on a network and the corresponding increased capacity that this necessitates.

Another challenge is to find the skilled resources internally and on our partner’s side. The network changes require massive efforts in the field, which are carried out by many subcontractors. These companies also need to bring resources into the country, which isn’t always easy.

It could also be a challenge to get the attention of suppliers, as we are a relatively small operator and our volumes are lower than in other areas of the world. If we were a standalone operator we would have difficulty but we are fortunate in having the advantage of being a member of the Qtel Group, with the economies of scale this brings.

A further challenge is that new services also require very effective, efficient and safe IT support. The dynamic market requires a most dynamic IT and service infrastructure.

What benefit will VoLTE bring to operators and consumers?

While LTE is all about the data experience we will have this voice functionality too as most customers will want the option of being able to talk too. Even better voice quality is possible with VoLTE, but the jury is still out on whether this will be essential.

Do you believe that RCS services can genuinely help the industry compete with OTT?

There is a place for RCS in particular when it breaks down barriers and avoids ‘walled garden’ solutions. For example, customers can make VoIP calls from one network to another or instant message each other across networks, with RCS enabled and without the need to use an OTT application and a need to stay in the OTT’s community. This will be especially interesting when most operators will provide this service as an app already installed on all devices they are selling in-store. Nawras is keen to work with both OTT and other operators, to benefit customers. Just recently, we announced an exclusive new partnership with WhatsApp to introduce new services based on the popular messaging platform.

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