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In order to shed light on the importance of private wireless networks, Telecom Review had an exclusive interview with Danial Mausoof, head of sales for mobile networks at Nokia in Middle East and Africa. He touched on Nokia’s contribution to the PWN market in the MEA and shared insights on the pertinent security aspect.

As a leader in the private wireless network space, what are Nokia’s analyses of this market in MEA in terms of adoption, market share and technology?

Private Wireless has been around for a few years and the adoption in the Middle East has been a bit staggered compared to what we have seen in other markets. During my previous role at Nokia as the Lead for Enterprise Services globally, we saw an uptake in select industries specifically in mining, utilities and logistics. Today, Nokia has sold almost 1000 4G/5G PWNs to almost 500 enterprise customers worldwide, in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, airports, airlines, seaports, railways, mining, utilities and public safety.

In MEA, the market is on the verge of a key inflection point driven by the confluence of two major effects: the regulatory environment and the start of the transformation journey to Industry 4.0. Enterprises are starting to see connectivity as a key enabler for transformation and acceleration to increase productivity. The post-Covid implications are also a driving factor towards the adoption.

The telecom regulatory environment in MEA has progressively evolved towards setting the right framework for spectrum allocation for PWNs and particularly in the Gulf region where this has been accelerating recently. Once this framework is in place in key markets, this will enable many enterprises to start their transformation journey.

There has been some contentious debate on Wi-Fi or Private Wireless which is now settling down as Wi-Fi will continue to play a role in the industry and compliments the use of 4G/5G PWN’s in several use cases. In our earlier conversations with the enterprises, we established that for low-latency, high bandwidth OT applications, PWN’s are a vital step in their digital transformation journey.

Spectrum plays an important role in the adoption, and we are starting to see the public safety segment certainly taking center stage as they have early access to spectrum. We have started seeing some examples in the GCC already, where Bahrain’s Electricity & Water Authority (EWA) has chosen Nokia to provide a private LTE network to digitalize the country’s distribution network. Nedaa, the Dubai-based operator that provides security networks for government entities in the UAE, commissioned Nokia to deliver a 5G-ready network for smart city solutions. The 5G-ready, mission-critical network consists of comprehensive security solutions, core and radio access solutions, IP/MPLS, optical and microwave backhaul network, along with professional services. We continue to engage with several government entities across the Gulf on opportunities to modernize and transform network infrastructures.

We are also starting to see some movement in African countries where mining operators have expressed interest in proofs of concept to enable mission-critical use cases. Nokia’s private wireless offering allows flexible deployment options which have maximum reach and control depending on the use case that the customer wants to deploy.

Nokia, as an established leader in this segment in the region, is in pole position to support all our customers with their transformation journey.

Which sectors and entities can benefit the most from private wireless networks, and what are the solutions and products that Nokia offers in the private wireless space?

We believe that PWNs can bring benefits to almost any of today’s enterprises. Having said that, where we already see a significant benefit from deploying Nokia PWN solutions in MEA are in the public safety, energy, mining and transportation segments.

Examples of some use cases driving these benefits are mission-critical (eg Push-to-Talk) services; surveillance (cameras); autonomous operations (mining); monitoring/control (utilities) and signaling (railways).

Nokia offers a comprehensive set of solutions in the PWN space ranging from end-to-end 4G/5G networks to GSM-R for railways to support different deployment scenarios depending on the enterprise size, geographical spread and specific use cases. This ranges from campus solutions (e.g., ports, airports, manufacturing) to full wide area network deployments covering the entire country. Nokia’s flagship Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (NDAC) and Modular Private Wireless (MPW) solutions offer our customers industry-leading solutions designed to meet their requirements in a modular way thus introducing the benefits and use cases of PWN connectivity on an as-needed basis.

Some consider private wireless networks to be more secure. Do you agree?

Given the current volatility and uncertainty, security is top of mind for many enterprises and remains a key concern when it comes to any wireless network, as entities with nefarious motives try to exploit potential network vulnerabilities. Nokia has a long and proven history in providing security solutions which are deployed to protect our customers’ networks in both the CSP and enterprise space.

One of the key benefits that Nokia provides is intrinsic security with encryption that allows you to manage your networks with the level of security that is desired. This varies by industry type and the degree of control you would like to manage your data, end users and network resources. Nokia also works with partners where enterprise can deploy bespoke security solutions that fit their exact, and in many cases, more stringent security requirements. From that perspective, PWNs can be more secure.

In your opinion, does private wireless complement wireless networks?

We believe that enterprises undertaking the complex and necessary journey to Industry 4.0 will require an end-to-end technology transformation, at the center of which is the connectivity landscape. This will be an evolutionary process which will need to be built around a complementary set-up of private and public (CSP) wireless networks interworking to support the more complex use cases and requirements. Nokia today partners with CSPs across the region to provide private wireless networks to enterprise customers.

With the expansion of use cases in enterprise, network slicing will play a critical role for CSP’s in the region. CSP’s need to monetize their 5G networks, and network slicing can provide virtual and independent networks within the same physical network. As per the GSMA, the network slicing market itself will be worth 300 billion by 2025, and the bulk of this will come from the enterprise market.

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