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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Ibrahim Al-Abbas, country senior officer for Nokia in Saudi Arabia, shared details on how the company is powering the country’s digital future, in support of Saudi Vision 2030, and how they work with stc to fulfill customers’ demands and ensure the best customer experience.

What are the latest technology showcases brought to LEAP 2023 to help your customers leap forward in the digital era?

At LEAP this year, Nokia’s theme was “Powering Saudi Arabia's Digital Future,” and the sub-themes were Nokia Vision 2030 (Metaverse beyond 5G), Sustainability and Industry 4.0 (Ready4.0Anything messaging). Under these themes, we brought the latest advanced technologies to our Saudi CSP customers, such as Mobily, Salam, stc and Zain — to say in alphabetical order — and enterprises to enable them to provide innovative services as pioneers, as Saudi is Nokia’s largest market at the global and regional level.

Nokia Technology Vision 2030 explored three significant aspects of the technology-driven world in 2030:

  • Key trends that influence the evolution and adoption of technologies towards 2030;
  • The potential of the metaverse as a prime example of a technology trend that will drive transformation across all sectors; and
  • The transformation of the network as the critical enabler of ecosystem transformation.

Metaverse as a technology trend will drive revolutionary transformation across all sectors. And the metaverse won’t exist without the network​. We expect human augmentation and digital-physical fusion to be the key drivers of network transformation in the years ahead. The evolution to 6G​ and network sensing will assume significance in this.

Ready 4.0 Anything: Under this topic, Nokia showcased and discussed networks built for Industry 4.0; mission-, business- and society-critical network solutions for​ the acceleration of Industry 4.0 in Saudi Arabia; and digitalization.

Sustainability: Nokia's Sustainability builds on five strategic focus areas: ​Environment — focusing on both climate and circularity; Industrial Digitalization; ​Security and Privacy; ​Bridging the Digital Divide; ​and Responsible Business. ​

Interweaving all these themes, we brought our most innovative technologies to showcase how the company can power Saudi Arabia’s digital future in support of Saudi Vision 2023.

From our Mobile Networks Business Group, we brought the Nokia Self-Organizing Network (SON) that helps manage growing network complexity to create flexible solutions, on top of our latest AirScale RAN portfolio showcase. Nokia’s network slicing was brought in to showcase how CSPs can create multiple virtual networks, or “network slices,” which can deliver application-specific network performance. We also introduced new Wavence microwave solutions to extend the reach of 5G deployments in both urban and rural environments in Saudi and across the globe.

Our Network Infrastructure Business Group brought its innovations in Fixed, IP and Optical networks and SD-WAN areas. Nokia showed multi-terabit secured optical networks;​ broadband for the future now; ​automation;​ IP networking without compromises; and​ Nuage SD-WAN powering the enterprise digital transformation.

Nokia CNS Business Group brought a range of solutions, including 5G core security and slicing security orchestration as well as assurance; Nokia Data Marketplace for monetization​; technologies to create value through immersive customer experiences; and Network as Code as well as 5G core Network as a Service.

For enterprises in the public and private sectors such as energy (O&G, mining, utilities), transportation (metro, airports, ports), public safety (private wireless networks) and smart cities in Saudi and the region, Nokia presents various innovative solutions that provide critical communications networks for digital transformation toward Industry 4.0.

How does Nokia drive digital transformation in support of Saudi Vision 2030?

The aim of Saudi Vision 2030 is to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and strengthen the country’s public services, including health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. This is driven by the country’s digital transformation, which is underpinned by world-class telecommunication systems as well as high-tech smart industries.

Nokia has helped build a robust digital infrastructure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2001 by providing leading-edge telecom equipment and technology solutions to Saudi CSPs and enterprises. Saudi Arabia is our biggest market in the Middle East and Africa region, and we are committed to providing those industry-leading solutions.

We have been closely collaborating with Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and all the telecom operators, including stc, Zain, Mobily and Salam, to strengthen the Kingdom's technological competitiveness and develop new ICT capabilities in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

Recently, Nokia and MCIT announced boosting sustainability and customer network support with a new maintenance hub in Saudi Arabia in line with Saudi Vision 2030. We announced the opening of a new regional maintenance hub in Riyadh aiming to support its customers across the MEA region and provide repair and support services for Nokia’s 5G and legacy telecoms’ network equipment, as well as training to local engineers. The move supports Nokia’s efforts to extend the lifespan of its network equipment through the adoption of circular practices that enable both greater material efficiency and reduced waste, enabling more sustainable networks.

How do you enable enterprises to digitally transform?

Saudi enterprises are also benefiting from Nokia's field-proven network solutions to enhance productivity, improve operational efficiency and provide exceptional customer service. In addition to our private wireless network offering with LTE and 5G, Nokia leads in the end-to-end software portfolio in digital infrastructure, network orchestration, automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and business analytics.

We are already engaging with several enterprises from different industry verticals, such as oil and gas, utilities, logistics, smart cities and governments, among others, to help them leverage communication technologies to automate their processes and operations to drive efficiency. Through our proven expertise in the latest technologies, Nokia is helping enterprises digitally transform to grow their business and unlock new market opportunities.

As head of the Global Customer Business Team for stc, how do you work with stc to fulfill its customers’ demands and ensure the best customer experience?

We regularly engage with stc to fully understand stc’s requirements and accordingly support them with our solutions. I provided a few examples earlier. As visionaries, both stc and Nokia collaborate and explore not only to address current demands but also to visualize future trends and demands in the fast-evolving digital era. This is why we brought the latest technology demonstrations to LEAP to help stc and others.

From our end-to-end 5G technology portfolio, we have already deployed our 5G technologies to stc. All these 5G networks are already live, and fixed wireless access (FWA) in homes and businesses is bringing fiber-like speed and reliability to places where, currently, there is no or limited fiber infrastructure.

5G is enabling the use of technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) immersive experiences. When those technologies mature and VR headsets become more available, the industry will see a shift in how Saudi consumers will access exciting digital content. In addition, with ultra-low latency capability and extreme broadband capacity of 5G, operators and enterprises will have more opportunities to enhance the existing services.

Last year, with stc, we reached important milestones with MEA-first achievements. We brought our 5G 4-Component Carrier Aggregation (4CC-CA) to stc for the first time in MEA to enable stc to reach higher throughputs by combining different spectrum asset services to efficiently enhance the 5G user experience. CA will also allow stc to deliver leading 5G services to its customers and achieve a faster time-to-market for new 5G use cases.

Before that, we, together with stc and MediaTek, announced the successful verification of 3-Component Carrier Aggregation (3CC-CA) in a 5G standalone (SA) network in the city of Makkah again for the first time in the Middle East and Africa in April 2022.

Also, Nokia, together with stc, successfully completed the MEA region’s first trial of a 1-Terabit high-capacity channel. The trial was activated in Riyadh across a live network using Nokia’s 1830 Photonic Service Interconnect – Modular (PSI-M) solution.

Nokia and stc announced the launch of a managed SD-WAN solution, stc SD-WAN, based on Nuage Networks from Nokia Virtualized Network Services (VNS) platform in May 2022. The stc SD-WAN solution is a key element in stc’s cloud portfolio, providing automated, dynamic, programmable and more efficient network services to its enterprise customers.

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