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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, May El-Rafie, microwave lead, Nokia MEA, sheds light on the critical role of microwave connection for 5G deployments and how Nokia's Wavence portfolio is changing 5G transport networks.

The global 5G technology market is projected to reach $797.80 billion by 2030. How has microwave technology, such as E-band, contributed to this momentum, and why is it important in the future?

Microwave transport has been a vital part of mobile technology evolution, and Nokia has had an industry-leading portfolio. For some, it may be that the technology has outlasted many others. However, simplicity and faster access remain competitive factors even as we move to 5G. The Wavence product portfolio is considered the leading solution, and with the introduction of 5G, our new E-band offerings are critical to the planning and delivery of high-performance networks.

We have many examples in MEA where microwave and E-band have helped our customers in 5G deployments. One of these examples is Zain KSA, where Nokia has helped in transforming the service experience for Zain's customers and enhancing industrial productivity by enabling extreme broadband services. This includes 5G RAN, backhaul, security and services, demonstrating the breadth of our full-portfolio strengths and depth of global expertise in deploying these next-generation projects.

5G has driven the need for higher transmission capacities with minimum latency over short distances. The E-band (80GHz) provided a solution to this with capacities that can reach up to 20Gbps and down 10 microseconds of latency. In most of the countries in the Middle East and Africa, E-band has enabled a faster ramp up for the ambitious rollout plans for 5G while further complementing existing 4G expansions as well. The portfolio is future-ready as we continue to expand on the use cases across the bands, allowing 100% carrier aggregation.

Which industry verticals are best suited to benefit from operations using the E-band range? How is Nokia addressing those requirements, and what are the current headwinds for its implementation in the region?

Enterprise is a growing market for Nokia, and we see that the entire Wavence portfolio, including the E-band, is an extremely viable solution. This has been a clear priority for our feature roadmap in order to ensure that we are able to address the requirements for the needs of mobile for verticals such as energy, transportation, public sector and others. Enterprise would typically need high capacity for short distances, and an E-band product can play a critical role here.

The E-band is a perfect solution for industry verticals where high capacities over short distances are needed. For example, video surveillance applications are used in a lot of verticals.

Nokia has a wide range of E-band portfolios which are developed to fit in most use cases, from mobile backhauling to verticals use cases as well as down-street deployments.

The challenges in the E-band implementations are more regulatory and country-specific; indeed there are several countries where E-band is not regulated yet. However, there are ways we can address this through our partners and CSPs alike.

How can Nokia’s E-band portfolio help CSPs to provide energy efficiency, carbon reduction and cost efficiency in their customers’ operations?

Nokia’s microwave solution is natively optimized for a zero footprint solution, meaning it will work with direct connection to an existing router or to our RAN equipment AirScale without the need of adding a dedicated microwave switch.

The most relevant parameter, accounting for more than 80% of global emissions, is power consumption. With high transmit power, power consumption consequently increases. Nokia, with its commitments to the environment, has been designing its products and features to balance the need of increasing the TX power with the power reduction requirements. 

Nokia has also introduced the ATPC (Automatic Power Control) feature on its outdoor transceiver units, including the E-band family. The ATPC can reduce the power consumption down to 75% where minimum power is used for some portfolio models. Another feature on the modular microwave switches is the dynamic fan speed management feature, where the fan speed adapts according to temperature. A 50% speed reduction introduces 22% less power consumption on fans. Nokia is also expanding its microwave switch models that are more power efficient than some of the existing switches, for example, the MSS-HE, which consumes 24% less power compared to the modular MSS-4 models.

These are all examples of the continuing evolution of our portfolio, which allows us to lead in the domain across CSPs and Enterprise.

In an age of industry 4.0 revolution where private networks play a critical role in operational efficiency, how is Nokia helping companies to leverage the potential of these two technologies?

Industry 4.0 is the trend towards automation. The Nokia MW portfolio is SDN ready and integrates with its Network Service Platform (NSP), which acts as an E2E orchestrator for the network.

The NSP can create services as well as monitor and manage transport network services in a seamless and automated E2E manner.

Please tell us about Nokia’s future for the growth of its microwave transport solutions in the MEA region and globally.

The Middle East and Africa is a diverse market with opportunities for growth for mobile operators and enterprises alike. We earlier spoke about 5G being an enabler for preparing backhaul networks and this will continue in many countries across the region. In the next two years, we have over 14 5G licenses being issued, and we are working with customers across the region to be prepared to deliver high-performance and scalable networks. We also see more mature 5G operators moving towards the next wave of expansion, and this will allow us to ensure that capacity increments are factored into the network evolution plan.

Enterprise remains an important focus area as we see private wireless and mission-critical networks across different verticals starting to spring up across the Middle East and Africa region.

Microwave allows a faster time to market for CSPs. With the introduction of E-band, a full 5G ready solution with high capacity and ultra-low latency, you have fiber-like connectivity in no time. We are working with our customers, both CSPs and Enterprise alike, and expanding with our partners to address their network evolution and technology plans. We continue to grow the portfolio and roadmap to address the requirements and deliver on our commitments towards sustainability.

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