CommsMEA caught up with Chafic Traboulsi, vice president and head of networks at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, to find out how GCC nations can take the next step down the road to realising its full 5G potential……DigitalTimesNG reproduces the interview…
As operators look to ramp up their 5G offering, how important is spectrum sharing technology going to be?
With 5G networks going live and consumers getting their hands on the first 5G devices, user expectations are high. Communications service providers need to make the best use of their spectrum assets and utilise each band’s performance characteristics to support their business strategies while maintaining coexistence between all technologies deployed in the network.
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, part of Ericsson Radio System, enables a quick, flexible, and cost-effective upgrade to 5G within existing 4G carriers. Based on traffic demand, the solution will dynamically share the spectrum between 4G and 5G carriers, making the switch on a one-millisecond level to minimise spectrum wastage and provide the best end-user performance.
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing enables a smooth and fast network migration through simultaneous and dynamic support of 4G and 5G within the same spectrum band using the Ericsson Radio System, once operators are ready to make the transition.
The new functionality can be implemented through a remote software installation on Ericsson Radio System radios shipped since 2015. This capability allows communication service providers to deliver nationwide 5G coverage with a much more flexible spectrum migration strategy – removing the need for dedicating existing 4G spectrum assets to 5G statically, which could negatively impact 4G performance.
We should also highlight that 4G/5G dynamic spectrum sharing is the key technology to efficiently deploy the most advanced 5G technology, 5G Standalone. 5G Standalone will enable the ultimate benefits of the 5G and with Ericsson Spectrum Sharing these benefits can be made available throughout the network in all the areas where the 4G signal is currently provided.
How important a region is MEA to Ericsson? What are your key targets for the region in the year ahead?
As a key player in making 5G networks a commercial reality, Ericsson is working closely with partners across the region and has a large number of Memorandums of Understandings – helping service providers to improve their existing consumer business and address previously untapped value chains in the digitalisation of industries.
5G is expected to reach 22 million subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) by the end of 2024, representing 1 per cent of total mobile subscriptions. This will make 5G the fastest generation of cellular technology to be rolled out on a global scale, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report.
The majority of the 5G subscriptions in the MEA are expected to come from advanced ICT markets like the GCC countries.
With connectivity at the heart of industry transformation, cellular technologies have a significant role to play – not just in the evolution of communication but in the transformation of businesses and societies as a whole.
What were you most looking forward to showcasing at this year’s cancelled MWC event?
The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.
To showcase the company’s portfolio and innovations, Ericsson will take the demos and content created for MWC Barcelona to customers in their home markets with local events called “Ericsson Unboxed”.
Last year, the GSMA tipped Middle Eastern telcos to lead on 5G. How will they continue to maintain their leadership position as they look to scale up their 5G networks?
To our great pride, the Middle Eastern telco and the Middle Eastern regulators have ensured that, this time, the Middle East is on the map early when it comes to a new telecom standard generation.
Mainly driven by the GCC, this was made by providing the telcos with affordable 5G frequencies early enough and allowing them to use advanced technologies like the Ericsson Spectrum Sharing without any hinders.
To stay in the lead the telcos have to ensure massive 5G adoption. 2020 and 2021 are the years where we will see that. They also have to ensure that they start testing the business monetisation side that will come with the Industrial private networks and critical IoT.
We are proud to be supporting our pioneering partners in the MEA region with their 5G switch. Ericsson is the first company to launch live commercial 5G networks on four continents. Today, 70 per cent of the top service providers evaluated in global public 4G network tests use Ericsson’s radios and basebands, which are the key to 5G performance.
And thanks to our ongoing interoperability engagements with six out of six chipset vendors, our 5G technology is evolving continuously to support a variety of 5G devices. That way, we can cater to the wide-ranging 5G use cases of today and tomorrow.
What are your predictions for the year ahead?
As market after market switches on 5G, Ericsson is at a truly momentous point in time. No previous generation of mobile technology has had the potential to drive economic growth to the extent that 5G promises. It goes beyond connecting people to fully realising the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The ongoing health crisis has shown the importance of telecommunications in keeping the world running. 5G is making the future efficiencies and possibilities a reality.
In 2019, Ericsson started the commercial rollout of 5G with operators in advanced markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Ericsson was selected by Batelco to commercially deploy 5G across Bahrain and announced 5G commercial launches with Etisalat, STC and Ooredoo. In addition, it is the first with commercial live networks in four continents and publicly announced 25 live commercial 5G operators globally with 81 commercial 5G contracts signed. Reaching the key technological milestone of deploying 5G networks has been a joint effort – a journey and a collaboration between Ericsson and its world-leading telecom partners. Together we have managed to develop 5G technology based on real business needs.
With commercial 5G networks already live around the globe, the next step is to ensure massive adoption. We also need to see if 5G will allow businesses of all types to reap the benefits of enhanced mobility, flexibility, reliability and security.
The high performance of 5G networks will make our future more efficient and more connected.