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During the 17th Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit, Günther Ottendorfer, CTIO, Ooredoo Qatar engaged in an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, where he shared the telco’s 5G initiatives, infrastructure capabilities and ICT trends of 2024.

Please discuss the initiatives of Ooredoo Qatar. Taking 5G-Advanced into consideration, how will this technology impact your customer base?

In Qatar, and at Ooredoo Qatar, we are 5G pioneers. We have deployed 5G very early and we have built on that experience. We also used it for the 2022 mega sporting event, where latest technologies enabled dazzling fan experiences.

You can see on my LinkedIn page, a fan video, where we achieved close to one gigabit per second in the full stadium during the game. Those kinds of experiences were possible via our use of advanced technologies and the spectrum that the national regulator (CRA) has given us for 5G.

We were using complex carrier aggregation on several bands as well as multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas to cover these small cell technologies and elastic RAN. All of these combined aspects led to great experiences that we have now expanded to the whole network.

I started a little bit of a competition recently, wherein I received an update from one of my technicians. In a real-life environment, in the early hours of the morning, a speed test achieved more than three gigabits per second with a normal iPhone. This is the kind of preparation we have done. These are the capabilities of 5G-Advanced technologies that we have implemented in the network.

Going forward, we will build on that. Why is it important for the customer? It is important because on the consumer side, we have gaming, and in the future, we will have more virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications that will need low latency and high uplink bandwidth. On the business side, we have cloud and database applications that need equally high speeds.

So we are very confident that Qatar is well prepared for this connected future, in line with the digital vision for the country.

The digital demands are increasing day by day. How will Ooredoo Qatar ensure that its infrastructure capabilities can deliver a secure, consistent and reliable experience?

A very good question. What we do for our customers is replicated across all fronts. So on the one hand, we have a very good fiber network as a base. More than 10 years ago, Qatar started rolling out fiber and we have now reached more than 99.9% of the targeted households using our FTTX network, and we are building on that.

On the mobile side, we have 5G coverage of more than 98% and we are using the latest technologies, especially for hotspots and hot zones to give our customers a consistent experience. We also use advanced technologies like AI in our operations. As an example, during the mega sporting event, we used predictive AI to help us react to errors in the network before they occured, and we have also used AI to bring about optimal customer experience flow in our app.

There are many other things we do to keep the experience going, and if I look forward, I see that we will have higher speeds on both mobile and fixed networks that will give the customers consistent and reliable communication from Ooredoo Qatar.

From your perspective, what ICT trends will be dominating Qatar and the overall Middle East in 2024? How will Ooredoo Qatar leverage this?

We are looking forward to very exciting times. We will use the great foundation of our networks to build additional services. We are already doing this for ourselves. I will give you several examples of ICT trends.

One is artificial intelligence. Ooredoo Qatar is a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence in our own operation. So we are not theoretically talking about it, we are practically using it. As I’ve mentioned, we are using it in the network for our own customer flows. In the future, there is the possibility of using it for corporate customers and to help everyone in Qatar that is using its technology.

Another megatrend that will be very defining is cloud. In the cloud, we are working with partners like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud to deliver services to our customers. On the other hand, we have our own cloud colocation offerings. We deliver truly unique offers using multi-cloud with local connect capabilities. I believe that this is something that will be a big trend and a big need from the corporate customers.

And the last point I would like to make, during the ITU CxO roundtable with my colleagues, we were discussing the next steps in optics to have even higher capacity networks in the future as a foundation for 6G. These include smart mobility and V2X— smart communication from all kinds of vehicles on the road. During the Qatar Expo 2023, we are also showcasing smart IoT solutions in the areas of smart metering, which is very good for energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as the areas of smart waste management for waste collection and monitoring.

We have several other solutions that will help the nation to have a more efficient, better and sustainable future. We look at all these trends as something that we partially already have and we are very excited about the ocean of possibilities they will bring to telecoms and Qatar.

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