Interview with Chafic Traboulsi, Head of Networks for Ericsson Middle East and Africa where he tells the story of 5G
* With the first 5G NR standard in place, what can we look forward to in terms of 5G development in the coming months?
*How would you describe the readiness of the MEA operators in terms of 5G?
*In your opinion, which use cases of 5G would be most popular in the MEA market?
Even though IoT is still in its infancy throughout many parts of Middle East and Africa, there are still examples of how it has helped improve livelihood of communities and industries in the region. For instance:
*what’s your 5G agenda for the year 2018?
*How much would your company invest in 5G this year?
Investment in R&D is not a destination, but an ongoing journey. Technology Innovation and leadership has always been a priority for us at Ericsson, and this is something we believe will sustain us in a dynamic marketing environment. While we can’t divulge details, Ericsson has recently secured credit facilities worth $370 million – and these new funds, beyond strengthening and providing financial flexibility, will be used to support R&D activities to further develop 5G and other mobile innovations.
*As we move closer to the 5G standards, which are the obstacles you see on the way that would need to be handled in order to leverage the complete potential of 5G?
Rather than obstacles, one should focus on the opportunities associated with largescale 5G implementation. We are lucky, to say the least, to be actively involved in the transformation that is upon us. The challenge in the race to 5G is facing three simultaneous scenarios – multi-standard, multi-brand and multi-layers. Driving synergies, integration and scalability in the face of these scenarios will continue to be a challenge that will require consistently innovative solutions and offerings.
The reality is that new types of connected devices, from electricity meters to cars to household appliances, will be supported by mobile networks. Future mobile broadband users will expect “unlimited performance” – up to multiple Gbps in some cases and hundred Mbps generally available – to the point that traffic volumes can be up to 1000 times greater than what we see today. The IoT and largescale introduction of communicating machines will put many diverse requirements on the network in terms of latency, battery consumption, device cost, and reliability.
5G will expand into new deployment scenarios, for example – ultra-dense deployments, where the distance between network access nodes may be as small as a few meters, to meet extreme data rates and capacity requirements.
The combination of extreme reliability and ultra-low latency poses an interesting challenge. Reliability requirements are very tough in industrial communication applications and for societal functions like smart city management and traffic safety. For example, ultra-low latency is needed for some traffic safety in industrial control applications, which will require trade-offs and design choices than differ from those made for today’s mobile broadband systems.
Network energy efficiency will remain very important in the future and will continue to be a key requirement. Moreover, greater spectrum will be needed to improve service levels in the wide area.
*How long would the wait be for the commercialisation of 5G? The big question- when is 5G coming for real?
We don’t speculate on this and to be honest, it would difficult to provide a concrete timeframe, as 5G commercialization will entirely depend on market dynamics and maturities of the ecosystem in general. However, what is heartening to note is the fact we are not too far off from this reality. According to Ericsson’s 5G Readiness Survey published in October 2017, 78% of respondents were involved in 5G trials in 2017 as compared to 32% in 2016. Furthermore, 28% of respondents expect to deploy 5G in 2018. The survey also revealed that operators have further developed their business strategies for 5G services, looking beyond the consumer segment to foresee opportunities in the enterprise and industrial segments as well.
The top three industry sectors that were highlighted by survey respondents were media and entertainment, automotive, and public transport; but many also ranked healthcare as well as energy and utilities among the most attractive sectors for 5G applications. A clear majority of respondents believe that Internet of Things will play an important role and that third-party collaboration will be essential in this context.
*What would be the biggest breakthrough of 5G in your opinion?
Many use cases are currently being evaluated in the areas of haptic technology, Remote and Artificial Intelligence, and many more. From a technical standpoint – last year Ericsson with IBM research saw the development of an integrated circuit with a phased array antenna module that operations on the 8GHZ spectrum band to be used in 5G base stations. mmWave bands allow for speeds that are more than 10 times faster than the frequencies used currently for devices. All this means that new use cases spanning human-machine interaction, smart home devices, and connected cars will depend on innovative technologies that will bring the promise of faster data rates, broader bandwidth and longer battery life to reality.
In our view, 5G is a system solution which combines several radio-access technologies. Existing mobile broadband technologies, primarily HSPA and LTE, will continue to evolve. They will provide the backbone of overall radio-access solutions beyond 2020, and we will see new complementary radio-access technologies for specific use cases. Smart antennas and more spectrum – including higher frequencies and improved coordination between base stations – will be important components to the successful and sustainable implementation of 5G.