Vision for 5G and IoT in MENA

Hazim Al-Rawi

12 March 2018

According to the market research, MEA IoT spending is expected to grow by 15% in 2018, organizations will ramp up investments in connectivity that enables IoT solutions.

In an executive interview, Hazim Al-rawi shares his thoughts on Comba's contributions and capabilities in connectivity enhancement in the region, as well as the focus to take on helping customers get on the 5G road.

1. How will the “disruptive” dimension of IoT impact on communication networks?

Hazim: IoT will potentially create a vast disruption in communication networks. This is concluded from the very definition of IoT as it consists of smart objects in the homes, offices, factories and all our surroundings that have the ability to interconnect and communicate with each other without the intervention of human (be it human-to-human or human-to-computer). Lots of features will move from central network component to the edge consumer devices, placing a huge challenge on the networks capacity handling.

2. How has Comba performed in the MENA telecom market so far?

Hazim: We had an excellent performance across MENA region in 2017. On BTS Antennas, Comba is now well recognized as the leading vendor especially after the 5-year global frame agreement with Ooredoo, across 10 OpCos, 7 of which are in MENA region, with a forecast to supply a huge proportion of BTS antennas. On the In-Building Solutions (IBS), we continue to be a leading supplier too and not only on conventional IBS solution for airports, shopping malls, hotels and VIP buildings but also for football stadiums. Comba is also very well positioned to take a leading role in technologies evolution, namely 5G, IoT solutions and smart city.

Since IOT and 5G goes hand-in-hand, Comba is working with its customers across the region on developing 5G NR (New Radio) solutions such as base station antennas. Our massive MIMO active antenna system (AAS) will be part of a 5G macro network rollout. This integrates the radio and antenna components for smaller footprint, more efficient power usage for reduced TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and easier deployment.

We are also working closely with our key customers across the region to further understand their demand for the next generation of DAS (5G digital DAS), small cell solutions for the 5G network, Public Safety BDA (Bi-Directional Amplifier) & DAS, and the smart solutions for the corresponding IoT and Smart City evolution.

3. What opportunities do you see for MEA businesses and organizations for sustainable growth in IoT, using Comba technology?

Hazim: As outlined earlier, IoT is basically a system that connect industry devices by means of sensors and antennas. Since Comba is one of the top 4 global antenna vendors, it will play a significant role in IoT industry worldwide and in MEA in particular, based on the gained footprint so far. This ranges from smart antennas using massive MIMO/beamforming or multi- narrow beams to device-integrated antennas for machine to machine communications. For smart cities and IoT industry, our Smart Street Pole, UWB (Ultra WideBand) Location Tracking, Scalable HetNet Base Station Solution and ScanVis Computer Vision AI Solutions for Enterprises are examples of what Comba offer now.

Middle East has been on the forefront of adopting the smart technologies especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries which are leading the way in the smart cities and smart government initiatives. Take UAE, for example, where driverless car powered by solar energy is already available at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing the IoT ecosystem?

Hazim: IoT will allow consumers to take control of their personal data and take advantages of potentially cheap mobile data through IoT network. This means the main challenges would be privacy, data security, standards and protocols and power consumptions. Networks are to be designed to run applications which are not fully defined yet. For legacy network, which operators paid billions of dollars and now its evolution to 5G, whether to upgrade or to replace with full new network? Can operators afford to run both, legacy and 5G networks?

On the technology side, strictly and challenging very low latency required across all network elements to provide on-fly on demand applications, which places a significant challenge.

5. What do you think 5G will bring to the Middle East and Africa?

Hazim: 5G offers massive increase in capacity compared to 4G/LTE, as it uses mmWave which brings 10 times higher frequencies and 10 times wider bandwidth. It is expected to address the ever-increasing demand for data capacity due to use of smart phones, by almost all users. MEA, like all other regions, will benefit from 5G which is expected in 2020 timeframe and will include mmWave and New radio (NR) technology that combines licensed, shared licensed, and unlicensed spectrum across radio technologies. This will enable end users to use data-hungry applications at relatively lower cost.

According to GSMA report in Oct 2017, mobile operators in MENA will be among the first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks. We, Comba MENA, have been responding to such requirements from our key customers for BTS antennas and IBS.

Mobile industry plays its part in the contribution to employment and economic growth. As per this GSMA report, in 2016, it contributes $165B to the regional economy which is 4.2% of the GDP, and is expected to increase to $200B. As for employment, in the same year, the mobile ecosystem has supported more than 1 million jobs. Furthermore, in 2016, MENA’s mobile industry made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector with $20 billion raised through taxation.

With 5G, these figures and contribution will vastly increase.

About Hazim Al-Rawi

Hazim Al-Rawi is the general manager for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Comba Telecom.Dr. Al-Rawi is responsible to manage and provide strategic direction to Comba’s regional business across all products, solutions and services.

Hazim Al-Rawi, General Manager for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region

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