Telecom Review Africa conducted an exclusive interview with Zhao Peng, SVP, ZTE Corporation, to discuss the challenges of 2022 and his opinion on the development trends of ICT technology in the MEA region. He also gave a sneak peak of some of what ZTE will show at the MWC 2023 event in Barcelona.

2022 has been described as a challenging year all around the world. How do you see the year for ZTE and ZTE MEA?

In 2022, ZTE Corporation entered a period of strategic transformation. Despite many external challenges, ZTE Corporation maintained the steady growth of the first development curve, the CT business, and realized rapid growth in the second development curve, represented by IT, digital energy and terminals. ZTE insists on our digital and intelligent transformation and continues strengthening end-to-end global R&D investment and innovation. In the first nine months of 2022, R&D investment exceeded 16 billion RMB, accounting for 17.4% of total revenue. In August 2022, ZTE Corporation was selected for the 2022 Fortune China ESG Influence List, becoming one of the representatives of companies with industry-leading ESG all-around performance.

In the MEA region, we continued to deepen our engagement with leading operators. With MTN, we exclusively won the Virtualized Core Network Modernization project involving eight countries, and at the same time, our 5G SA network has been commercially launched in MTN Nigeria on a scale similar to South Africa. With Orange, we have made encouraging progress in core, microwave, wireline and software products. With Airtel, efficient delivery and effective radio access solutions have led to continuous cooperation that has extended to microwave, IPRAN and fixed-access products. With Ooredoo Algeria, a new mutual trust has been established; our wireless market has been greatly extended; and we have won the total market share of the new IP network.

“Best Mobile Transport Solutions to Connect 5G Services”

Our business will come from our deep understanding of our customers as well as our cutting-edge technologies. Our “5G Transport Network Enables Telco’s Digital Transformation” solution has won the “Best Mobile Transport Solutions to Connect 5G Services” award at 5G MENA 2022. In the field of digital energy, ZTE signed new IDC data center contracts with leading regional operators. New energy products have been deployed in Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa and Saudi Arabia; the terminal revenue has increased by more than 50% year-on-year; South Africa and the Middle East shipment is nearly 70%; and the demand for 5G MBB products is snowballing.

Local intelligence and the engagement of localization are other important factors in our African footprint. We had been working with massive local partners on different innovative and sustainable solutions as well as 5G industry applications to their possibilities, including 5G smart mines, zero-carbon sites, green modular data centers and network automation with AI enablement. We hope to bring more extensive growth opportunities through these practical explorations, which are contributing to the African digital economy as a whole.

It has been concluded that information and communications technology (ICT) is of great importance, with the limitless potential to contribute to more rapid growth and productivity gains for the digital economy. What is your opinion on the development trend of ICT technology in the MEA region? What new plans does ZTE have for the region in 2023?

Countries in the region are paying more and more attention to digital transformation and have introduced a series of policies to support it. These actions promote the development of ICT technology in the region. An ecosystem has been formed; the telecom operators are the core of this ecosystem; digital equipment and technology suppliers support this ecosystem; and international and local digital companies and Internet platforms are participating in it.

The construction of ICT infrastructure in the MEA region has expanded rapidly in recent years. The GCC region has entered the second round of 5G-scale development. The dual broadband construction in North African countries is rapid. Although the southern Sahara region is still in the 4G speed-up phase, a large number of 2C and 2B innovative applications and businesses are coming out, such as Fintech, E-commerce, Take-away APPs, etc.

On the one hand, the urbanization of the MEA region is developing rapidly, and young people are pursuing the digital life; on the other hand, users, enterprises and governments have diversified demands for digitalization in the post-epidemic era. Therefore, the development of digital infrastructure construction and application innovation remains strong. ZTE is committed to its position as a driver of the digital economy. In 2023, we will adjust the critical areas of cooperation with local operators and enterprises in different countries according to the development goals of digital transformation in these countries.

In the GCC region, our cooperation will focus on 5G, 5G terminals, smart homes, data centers and servers; in North Africa, we will focus on dual broadband optical networks, 4/5G converged evolution, cloud services and modular data centers; in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions, it is still necessary to modernize and expand mobile broadband connection networks such as 4G.

ZTE will continue to promote the implementation of the "4A" concept that we proposed at MWC Africa 2022. Based on the operators' development and users' requirements, ZTE will provide affordable products and advanced solutions to them, promote available infrastructure development and adaptive business ecosystem integration, and help regional digitalization transformation together with partners to build a better digital future in the region.

Speaking of innovations, do you mind sharing with us some news about what ZTE will show at the upcoming MWC 2023 in Barcelona?

Sure, no problem. ZTE's booth will feature the latest ICT technology and related application achievements in four topics: Ultra-efficient Network, Digital Expansion, Boundless Future and Smart Life, under the theme “Shaping Digital Innovation.”

For example, ZTE's latest UniSite solution offers the industry’s simplest site solution, meeting diversified network construction requirements. Only five radio units are required to support a 7-band and 3-sector site, achieving maximum TCO savings for operators. In addition, ZTE can provide the industry with the unique 900 MHz + 1.8 GHz + 2.1 GHz tri-band UBR, which covers the most widely-used three FDD bands and is extremely suitable for either RAN sharing or single-operator site simplification.

During the exhibition, ZTE will participate in all the theme forums held by the GSMA. In addition, we will hold an industrial innovation forum with the theme “Shaping Digital Innovation.” Hot topics such as Intelligent Manufacturing, Green Bit, 5G-A, 6G and the Metaverse will be discussed with global operator customers, industry partners and opinion leaders. ZTE’s MWC Online website will be displayed simultaneously, allowing global customers who couldn’t join us onsite to see all the highlights of the exhibition at the same time.

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