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Along the sidelines of the recently-concluded International Telecommunication Union (ITU) CxO meeting, Saleem AlBlooshi, chief technology officer, du, had an exclusive interview with Telecom Review to elaborate about du’s latest 5G developments and what this technology entails to enterprise customers as well as to the digital transformation journey within the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What are du’s most significant accomplishments and use cases to date in terms of 5G deployment? Which organizations have you collaborated with on this?

We have embarked on our 5G journey since 2019. During this year, we started the rollout in line with the decision to lead  in 5G. Despite the pandemic in 2020, we continued the investment in our 5G infrastructure, and during 2021, we accelerated by almost doubling the usual investment in our infrastructure rollout.

Today, due to our strategic direction, plan, and vision to drive value for the stakeholders at large, we have active engagement with multiple local and International stakeholders and we are working together in sharing best practices in 5G rollout.  

All these contributed to our position today. We are working with different organizations for our 5G SA use cases. To cite an example, we are working with DEWA in building a private network with network slicing capabilities as well as some use cases of using drones for power grid inspection.

All these things are happening at a fast pace while we are continuing the journey of 5G enablement. Today, we are at the early stage of 5G monetization where the main usage of the infrastructure is mobile broadband traffic. We are  working with the stakeholders to enable the new use cases that will add value to society.

Transformational benefits are promised, thanks to 5G technology. What are the biggest advantages that du’s enterprise customers have availed from 5G?

5G promises the enablement of digital transformation. From a connectivity perspective, we have a wide band of connectivity, plus the enablement of the service delivery platform that 5G promises for the first time in all mobile generations.

When we say digital transformation, it means adding value to the organizations by being more efficient in the way they do business, having faster time-to-market by using the digital platform available in the different infrastructures, and enable innovation to drive new services

We can now interact directly with the RAN, leveraging collected data. Such connectivity enablement involves IoT capabilities and mobile edge computing. All these variables, on top of security, are platforms to enable digital transformation for any organization — being governmental, private sector, or even the consumers.

du deployed the first 5G leased line for UAE enterprises. Could you tell us more about this project and why its success was so important?

5G promises to drive digital transformation and the outcomes of digital transformation are efficiency, cost, faster time to deploy, and quality from a performance perspective.

All these variables, prior to the 5G leased line, we used to connect site offices where there is no infrastructure available in the area. In parallel, for the backup solution, we used to have a point-to-point radio solution where there is a dedicated spectrum cost, it takes time to deploy, and it has lower efficiency as well from a connectivity perspective.

All these issues are being addressed by the 5G leased line solution where we have a deployment of a CPE that does not require a line of sight or a dedicated spectrum. Thus, we are hitting all the advantages of 5G by such simple use case which is still connectivity. The difference is we manage to deliver connectivity in a more efficient manner, with faster time-to-market, and with higher capacity as well.

As a result, customers are enjoying capacity while we also have real use cases deployed with some private enterprises that brought good value to them and they are appreciating such implementation.

How will 5G support the UAE’s transformation and development objectives aligned to national programs such as the Centennial Plan 2071 and ‘Projects of the 50’?

Telecommunication infrastructure, in general, is a key pillar for the enablement of future transformational strategies, visions, and plans.

Connectivity is one of the important pillars and from our perspective, we are committed as we are leading in the 5G rollout. We are increasing as well our fiber footprint nationwide and building our new data centers. Recently, we had two big data centers, one in Kizad in Abu Dhabi, and the other one at Silicon Oasis in Dubai.

We are also working with CPE providers and IoT capabilities providers, allowing us to connect IoT on our data center and computing environment with the 5G capabilities and fiber. All these variables are the key pillars for any transformational plans, from our government’s perspective and the ecosystem at large.

You were recently selected to join the External Advisory Board (EAB) for the European Union’s 5G-Heart project. How would you contribute to this?

It’s an honor to be part of the advisory group of the European Union 5G-Heart project. To positively progress in the 5G rollout and add use cases, collaboration is very important as we share the learnings and experience as well as exchange information.

As I said, we are in an early stage of 5G monetization and the only way we can collectively progress is by exchanging information and collaborating. We have seen this as an opportunity for us to be part of such a strong organization and learn from their frameworks within the European Union, plus our contribution as an early adopter of 5G is we can share some information like implications and value of the use cases we have implemented in the UAE.

du is the co-host of the invitation-only CxO meeting hosted by Telecom Review at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City on December 7, 2021. This event is prior to the 15th edition of the Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit, the most anticipated and largest VIP ICT gathering in the industry.
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