On the side lines of the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Ericsson Middle East and Africa (MEA) President Rafiah Ibrahim revealed that 5G is estimated to reach 30m subscriptions in the MEA by 2024.
“With connectivity at the heart of the industry transformation, cellular technologies have a significant role to play – not just in the evolution of communication but in the transformation of businesses and societies. Cellular technologies have a significant role to play – not just in the evolution of communication but in the transformation of businesses and societies” She told Daily News Egypt.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Rafiah Ibrahim to find out the company’s latest plans in the region, and the prospects of the 5G adoption in Egypt. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
How important is the Middle East and Africa region, and Egypt in particular for Ericsson?
Ericsson has been in Egypt since 1896, we started from the first generation of phones, from fixed to mobile, 2G, 3G, 4G, and now we are discussing 5G.
And now we are working with all of the telecom operators, in various areas, some in mobile, and some in transmission, our portfolio is different with every operator.
What I also see with Egypt is that the country got very good local components. That is why we have committed to set up and have local resources, as they can help with our operations not only in Egypt but also in other African countries. They have the knowledge of language, especially Arabic, while some of them know French which can be used in West Africa.
What are the challenges facing 4G and 5G in Egypt, especially in terms of affordability?
Affordability is the main reason why each operator in the country has to find a business case for 5G before they even invest, as the first step they have to do is to buy spectrum, purchasing spectrum is the most valuable asset for an operator.
In some of the countries, we see 5G used for fixed wireless connection in places where there are no fibre connections, I do not know yet if that is suitable for Egypt.
What about infrastructure spending and information security challenges in the region, and in Egypt?
We are still discussing the frequency and spectrum with customers in Egypt, this is a discussion that the regulatory authorities would want to make sure that they allocate the correct bandwidth for 5G, as sometimes there are other users on that bandwidth.
When it comes to Egypt, the operators we collaborate with want Ericsson to do some trials for the use cases there, which point out to the fact that they are eager to adopt the technology.
They are not ready yet, but we need to make sure that regulators, along with telecom operators, come to a situation where they are ready for the auction.
In regards to the security, Ericsson works on making the data and networks more secure, in the countries where we started to roll out 5G.
Do you think that the MENA technological development lags behind other countries?
I think when MENA countries start development, they can leapfrog, the problem is that we keep comparing ourselves with others that have adopted the new technologies, North Africa in particular, even though they adopted the new technologies later but they can leapfrog easily, because they are industrialising very quickly.
Spying allegations toward the 5G network, with EU talking about banning one of your competitors, how would that effect Ericsson?
As a company, we focus on what we can do to benefit our current customers, we do not plan based on the geopolitical events, as that can change. If the opportunity comes, and operators want to work with us, we would be happy to do that. But I do not think we should be opportunistic and start hunting these cases.
How does 5G affect the way we live?
It will touch every aspect of our lives, if the government starts using it such as in water, electricity, digital identities, the means of travelling through autonomous vehicles, if the country is ready with that sort of infrastructure.