opinion


How does the MEA keep pace with transformation?

LTE handset VoLTE

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Femi Oshiga, Vice President of Service Providers, MEA at CommScope, discusses some of the things MEA telcos should consider in order to stay ahead of the game.

African and Middle Eastern end-consumers, who make up more than 20 percent of the global population, are increasingly mobile and social. It’s pretty incredible that 50 percent of Africa’s urban population is online, primarily through their mobile devices which play an increasingly important role in socio-economic development. And we’re seeing increased smartphone penetration in the Middle East, growing from 23 percent in 2014 to 58 percent in 2020.

The mobile industry in 2018 is the increasing acceleration of growth of high speed mobile broadband, driven by the continuing evolution of LTE.

We are already seeing the emergence of incredibly fast ‘Gigabit’ LTE sites, with LTE latency under 20 milliseconds across large parts of the network and LTE regularly delivering speeds in excess of 100 Mbps downloads and uploads.

LTE is going to continue to be the underpinning network of the “network-of-networks” that 5G promises. And 5G is going to gradually become the primary macro network technology to drive the Internet of Things (IoT) and super low latency applications over the coming year.

As network operators seek to take advantage of this wireless transformation, they should consider the following:

  1. Power: The requirement for powerat every wireless access point is essential, but often assumed as available or even forgotten until the completion of network planning.  
  2. Backhaul: From microwave transmission to fixed wireless access as well as backhaul via Fibre to the X (FTTX), a solution to carry traffic from the network sites to a central office for switching, caching and forwarding is imperative.
  3. Site acquisition: This is still a huge challenge. We’re starting to see larger volume projects, but it still takes longer than anyone wants. Zoning processes that last 12 months or more are just too long.

Constant change is the status quo

In places like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the government is reimagining what transportation and education will look like in the future. They’ve appointed the world’s first Minister for Artificial Intelligence and more than half a million people from 22 countries have applied to participate in the One Million Arab Coders programme. My colleagues and I are debating whether or not flying cabs may soon be a reality.

We expect to see many more industrial applications of these use cases in 2018 with robotic manufacturing techniques coordinated wirelessly with ultra-low latency. In the longer-term, the real promise of the 5G era is that combination of low latency, high speeds and low-power M2M sensors and IoT devices.

It’s no surprise the younger generation is driving this future. A report by HSBC Private Bank suggests that the Middle East is home to the highest proportion of millennial entrepreneurs in the world. Sixty three percent of the business owners they screened in the Middle East were aged 35 or under.

2018 is the year in which we will finally see measurable business outcomes from a number of emerging 5G technologies. It is the year in which we can stop being distracted by the media hype and finally start to see some of the many promises surrounding 5G in the enterprise come to fruition.

 

Meet Commscope and learn more about progress towards 5G in the Middle East and North Africa next month at 5G MENA 2018, the largest event in the region to focus on advancing and commercialising 4G and 5G networks.

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