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By Anjian, president of Carrier Networks Business Group, Huawei Middle East

The past few months have been challenging for everyone around the globe in one way or another. During this time, there has been a special focus on telecom operators around the world. Not only were they expected to continue providing a high level of service as usual, but even manage extra pressures put on their networks. The smallest downtime was getting noticed by consumers who had only their telecom services to rely on while they were locked down inside their homes. We also saw many operators rising to the occasion and offering multiple benefits to their customers as part of their social responsibility.

One thing which these last few months have made absolutely clear is that telecom networks are an essential part of our connected lives. It is the first thing we turn to in case of anything going wrong individually or as a society. Therefore, supporting operators in building reliable, high quality telecom networks will be a top priority for regulatory and ICT authorities across the world. In the Middle East, the operators which were proactive in building 5G networks have, for example, been able to more successfully navigate these challenges.

“1+1+X” cater to emerging home demands

The pandemic has fast-tracked a number of home applications as residential areas become new traffic hotspots. Home connectivity, which was earlier used only after office hours and mainly for leisure, suddenly had to take combined pressure of office productivity tools, e-education and entertainment such as gaming and video streaming at the same time. Our homes became a place of work, a place for study, a place to unwind, and a place for the whole family to be together at the same time but doing different things.

Due to the sustained user behaviour even after resumption, data traffic is still significantly increasing compared to before the outbreak (as the example in China and Korea), which has a greater impact on the existing network. Fortunately, some visionary operators in the Middle East launched 5G in the months preceding the lockdown. They were able to offload some of the new traffic demands to 5G networks by offering 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) packages to the market. Many operators saw their 5G FWA terminals flying off the shelf during this period, owing to increased connectivity needs of people staying at home and owing to great upload and download speeds which 5G FWA can offer which were not possible on 4G.

Meanwhile, the changes in consumption patterns of families require highly reliable connections as a new normal. Operators will be required to continuously keep addressing these challenges by building and maintaining superior networks, offering additional services which provide guaranteed coverage, as well as guaranteed service levels up till individual applications. In a typical home connectivity scenario, operators are in control of the network until handover at home to a customer-owned or managed-access point, with operators largely uninvolved in the network at home.

Especially in the Middle East where a considerable population lives in villas, in this scenario although operators may have enabled high bandwidth to the home, customer-managed home WiFi networks may cause high suppression of download and upload speeds. Even though the operator is not responsible for this and may be unaware of this problem, customers may think that it’s the operator’s network which is responsible for poor performance. Operators also spend a lot of money in maintaining field troubleshooting teams to address customer issues only to discover that the issue is with the home network instead of the operators’ network in a majority of cases.

One way to resolve these issues is that operators can take control of the complete network until the device or even until the end user applications and guarantee performance for specific applications like low-latency gaming and high-bandwidth 4K/8K video streaming. In addition, operators can monetize an enhanced guarantee of performance for home networks, adding new revenue to their home broadband services.

So, how do we do this? The concept of “1+1+X” may hold the answer. The equation represents 5G FWA (1 for high speed internet connectivity) + Smart Mesh WiFi solutions (1 for customer experience enhancement) + Application Service Level Improvements (X).

Some operators in the Middle East have been working to guarantee 5G FWA home broadband performance is a reality for their customers using Smart Mesh WiFi. It provides superior coverage in every corner to large households through multiple access points connected in a mesh topology. It also enables high performance until the content using artificial intelligence, and provides operators with the ability to troubleshoot performance issues within home networks remotely and thus reduce costs of unnecessary field visits. Application-level service improvements are made possible through AI-based intelligent service identification and scheduling. Smart Mesh WiFi uses AI to categorize the traffic for preferred games or collaboration tools and provide dedicated assurance channels on home WiFi for improved application performance. Such solutions also provide out of the box capabilities to operators to offer guaranteed performance for many popular games and collaboration tools to start monetizing them very quickly.

Huawei has collaborated with more than 20 gaming providers and office productivity solutions and provides the ability to offer guaranteed performance for these on its Smart Mesh WiFi solution. We have recently been running tests with multiple operators in the Middle East on our Smart Mesh WiFi and the results have been very encouraging in optimizing network performance for popular games, streaming services and collaboration tools.

In conclusion, we can clearly see that the world is more dependent than ever on telecom networks. Operators are facing customer experience challenges and require innovative ways to address customer satisfaction and add new revenue streams at the same time. We have always been at the forefront of assisting operators in addressing these challenges and enabling better experiences for consumers. We consider our suite of 5G 1+1+X solutions as a part of a long chain of innovative solutions that we can continue to build to make peoples’ lives better and make them ready for any challenges that the future holds.

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