6G Technology will be Crucial Enabler for Advanced Capabilities, says Ericsson’s Fadi Pharaon

The telecom giant is conducting intensive research into 6G networks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

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  • [Image source: Krishna Prasad/MITSMR Middle East]

    The sixth generation of mobile internet, 6G, due next decade, is a hot topic of discussion as telecom giants work on superfast wireless cellular communications specifications. At the same time, companies also weigh how to make a return on their multi-billion dollar investments in 5G.

    “While all eyes are on 5G, 6G is already being standardized. 6G will deliver truly omnipresent wireless intelligence,” says Fadi Pharaon, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa.

    It’s been said that 6G could enable data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than 5G and provide new ways of social interactions, remote work, and faraway cultural experiences.

    “The vision for 6G is built on the desire to create a seamless reality where the digital and physical worlds have merged. It will contribute to building a more human-friendly, sustainable, and efficient society,” Pharaon says, adding that the priority at Ericsson is “ensuring that the 5G infrastructure of today continues to evolve towards the 6G era”. 

    The telecom giant is conducting intensive research into 6G networks in partnership with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

    A Catalyst of Innovation 

    For now, 5G, however, has been positioned not just as a consumer product for faster download speeds but as a network that could underpin new technologies. 

    “The Middle East region is a frontrunner in launching 5G, with reasonable coverage and solid network performance, says Pharaon. “Strong economies, especially in the GCC region, enable governments to invest in information and communications technology as part of ambitious national visions and digitalization initiatives. Several smart city projects are set to significantly utilize 5G network capabilities across various use cases.”

    “We see 5G as a catalyst of innovation that can support life-altering advancements – providing millions of consumers and enterprises with access to cutting-edge applications based on the Internet of Things, AI, smart cities, augmented reality, and virtual reality.”

    Unsurprisingly, the industry’s demand environment remains strong in the MENA region. It is projected to witness the highest growth in smartphone subscriptions globally, and while 4G is expected to account for the bulk of the base by 2029, increasing 5G adoption will continue to dominate the ICT sector.

    5G networks got underway in 2019. Now, nearly five years on, the number of consumers with a 5G connection is increasing.

    In GCC countries, 5G subscriptions are projected to grow annually by 19% up to 2029, when over 90% of all subscriptions are forecast to be 5G. The MENA region is also expected to experience significant mobile data traffic growth, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% forecast between 2023 and 2029. 

    “This growth will be fueled by the transition of more smartphone users and rising average usage per smartphone. Significant growth opportunities are driven by increasing connectivity needs, digital transformation initiatives, and the proliferation of mobile devices and applications,” says Pharaon.

    5G connections are expected to represent more than half of mobile connections by 2029, though, which is forecast to rise 56% by 2030. 

    In Saudi Arabia, there’s a growing preference for 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), says Pharaon. “This shift towards FWA is transforming home connectivity, with four out of five households making it their primary choice.” 

    Challenges and Changing Markets

    However, the growth trajectory of the telecom sector challenges ICT companies to keep up with the surging demand and changing markets. Specifically, the Radio Access Network (RAN) market has faced challenges throughout 2023, with anticipated further volume declines. 

    “Despite this, our strategic approach remains centered on bolstering operational efficiency while safeguarding critical investments essential for future competitiveness, as emphasized by our historic OPEN RAN contract with AT&T,” he says. 

    He adds sustained growth necessitates more than just increasing data traffic; it requires innovative solutions and monetization strategies. 

    “Our commitment to AI and automation underscores our readiness to capitalize on emerging opportunities while maintaining our leadership in telecom networks. Through continued investment in R&D, we aim to strengthen our competitive position and capture future value.”

    While GenAI has been making waves across multiple sectors, Pharaon says Ericsson has earmarked use cases for GenAI in its operations as initial steps, which include an intelligent assistant, a coding buddy for software developers, and intelligent search. 

    “We are focused on responsible and widespread adoption, and we are closely monitoring the impact of these implementations to gain insight into their potential.”

    Globally, other than GenAI, connectivity, digital consumer, and ESG, telcos are looking to leverage proven models and time-tested strategies to drive value for investors, customers, and stakeholders. 

    Will 2024 bring good tidings to telecom companies? 

    “We anticipate a wealth of opportunities, with sustainable connectivity rising to prominence. I see a continued focus on 5G, which we view as a key building block of a digital future, especially with standalone networks,” he says. “I expect groundbreaking ICT innovations benefiting individuals and businesses, alongside continued democratizing essential services through digital transformation.” 

    Looking ahead, Pharaon says 6G technology will emerge as a “crucial enabler for advanced capabilities” such as the internet of senses and communication among intelligent machines.



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