LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 MIDDLE EAST: Nokia, Huawei and Qualcomm want to put the Middle East on a global stage for launch of 5G services, stressing the need for close partnerships across the ecosystem and improved access to spectrum to ensure the region can compete with Asia and US and deploy networks by 2020.

To date, operators in Asia (Japan’s Docomo and South Korea’s KT) and the US (AT&T and Verizon) have been most bullish on plans to launch 5G by the end of this decade. But in this morning’s keynote session it became apparent that the Middle East doesn’t want to get left behind.

Nokia’s Noel Kirkaldy (Public Sector Business Development EMEA – Advanced Mobile Network Solutions) cited the Dubai Expo2020 as a target event for launch of 5G services in the Middle East (followed by the Qatar World Cup in 2022). This 2020 timeframe has previously been more closely associated with Docomo’s efforts to launch 5G in Japan at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“We have some key timelines we need to work towards in the Middle East,” said Kirkaldy (pictured, above).

qiu-heng-2Spectrum will undoubtedly be a major issue with launch of 5G services.
“With spectrum in the Middle East, the gap is huge, we need 10x more spectrum,” claimed Qiu Heng (pictured, left), President, Wireless Marketing Operations, Wireless Network Product Line, Huawei.

Meanwhile Qualcomm’s Hani Yassin, Senior Director, Technology – MEA, stressed the need for availability of 3.5GHz spectrum. “That [band] will be most important to the Middle East. In general in MEA there is a lack of interest to make this work. We urge regulators to make sure we have at least 80-100MHz of that available to start doing trials in 5G.”

All three vendors agreed that 5G will need the industry’s competing players to work together to ensure a smooth path to commercial availability.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. What brought us 2G, 3G and 4G was a collaborative approach across the industry to standardise solutions,” reflected Nokia’s Kirkaldy.

hani-yassinQualcomm’s Yassin (pictured, left) noted that the move to 5G is already seeing the mobile industry expand into other sectors, welcoming car manufacturers, robotics and drones. “5G is coming. It requires a big effort from every stakeholder to accelerate this and prevent fragmentation.”

Huawei’s Heng also advised operators to customise their plans for each network launch. “Build a local ecosystem, you need a partner in the Middle East and local region to build the ecosystem, and build the business model – you need to discuss with partners,” he suggested.