Huawei Analyst Day 2019: Addressing the 5G Challenge for Middle East CSPs

D. Kehoe

Summary Bullets:

  • Middle East telcos are taking a proactive approach in their 5G deployments, and Huawei is an active player in the region.
  • While standards are shaping up and roadmaps evolving, partner selection is happening now.

5G is an emerging technology that transforms underlying architecture in core networks and promotes virtualization, AI and automation. It changes the possibilities of networks, applications and underlying IT systems. It introduces several new technologies that are different from any previous technology, some of which include:

  • Ultra-low latency – opens up new possibilities to converge the performance of network and apps, as well as entirely new use cases for cloud-based AR/VR. The health sector, for example, highlights possibilities in areas such as remote surgery.
  • Network slicing – allows users to set their own QoS/CoS parameters around virtual networks; advances SD-WAN; addresses security differently and opens new possibilities in IT/OT security.
  • Massive bandwidth – an ability to support 10 Gbps potentially, offering a lot of capacity to the last mile and resolving many bottlenecks we have today.

Unlike previous generations of technology, 5G has many moving parts with standards in play. 5G is premised on transforming the core infrastructure and embracing all of the fundamentals of agility at scale. Monolithic, purpose-built applications, for example, will give way to cloud-native and microservices-centric architectures. This promotes the rapid release of new features and the indoctrination of open source, which includes APIs and, in the case of Huawei, aggressive recruitment of third-party developers. Over time, 5G embodies the total convergence of traditional network and application environments, bringing the industry closer to infrastructure as code. 5G advocates a more distributed architecture (including core and edge) to bring dramatic improvements to performance, uptime and resiliency.

While 5G is getting most of the attention in developed markets, there is a unique angle playing out in the Middle East. Populations are growing and the region is divesting economically. IoT has led to many net new infrastructure investments in smart cities. However, there is also a lot of operational technology (e.g., SCADA and industrial control systems) sitting dormant in the critical infrastructure, from power and utilities to major manufacturing sectors such as oil and gas. Opportunities to drive massive efficiencies in a supply chain and improve the uptime of equipment are also being met with significant improvements in security. Connecting OT and IT to a common 5G platform, for example, directs attention to securing the platform, not the hundreds of bespoke endpoints connecting with available technology. This is often across multiple networks, making security management challenging.

Huawei, as demonstrated on its analyst day, has been a major player in the Middle East when considering its 5G commercial activity. One of its customers, Etisalat in the UAE, for example, is activating 5G now and building out 600 sites across the country. Etisalat is also a founding member of the Telco Security Alliance – the first of its kind premised on telcos sharing data and resources as an industry to address cybersecurity. Interestingly, all of its members have committed to 5G. Other accounts include Zain, VIVA and STC. Huawei is very strong from an architecture point of view. GlobalData ranks it as a leader for many solutions (e.g., EPC, IMS, IoT and RAN), essential building blocks for a successful deployment.

Our research suggests telcos are seen as the preferred partner for delivering 5G-enabled enterprise solutions. But, maintaining this status will require the operators to do more. They will need partners that can support the 5G business case (especially for the enterprise transforming digitally), in addition to support in system integration and access to a broad ecosystem. Partners should also have a strong position on open source to support multivendor environments. 5G is years away from full potential, but partnerships and the 5G ecosystem are developing now for these reasons. Huawei is among a short list of vendors positioned to support a CSP in regions such as the Middle East where these skills are typically not available in-house.

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