Fibre and 5G: Challenges and how to overcome them

Dr. Suleiman Al Hedaithy, the vice president at Middle East Fiber Cable Manufacturing Co. talks all things fibre


Fibre and 5G are coming. They’re set to once again change the way the world connects with each other and the new technology promises to lend itself to development of other new technologies.

Dr. Suleiman Al Hedaithy, the vice president at Middle East Fiber Cable Manufacturing Co. talks all things fibre – from what it would mean for the Middle East to be fully connected, to what the challenges are to achieving that and overcoming them.

How does the Fibre Connect Council see the future of fibre in the region?


The future of broadband connectivity, enabled by optical fibre, is very promising and expected to surge throughout the region. The development of fibre broadband network rollouts may vary greatly from one country to another in terms of intensity and time to market. For example, part of our region is very dynamic (GCC countries), while a few of North African countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are currently working on nationwide deployments. Yet, other MENA countries are less fortunate due to political instabilities like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yamen, Sudan, and Libya.  

What would having a fibre-connected MENA mean? I.e. what does it do for cities and individuals?

Optical fibre can be considered as the nervous system for any network whether wired or wireless. With the advent of increased demand for ultra-fast and high-capacity broadband services, fibre has proven to be the future-proof technology that can make it possible to meet such demands. People nowadays extensively use more and more electronic devices to get things done in their daily activities whether for work, school, or entertainment. Therefore, online connectivity became a necessity, rather than a luxury in our daily lives. Governments and service providers are investing heavily in broadband online services to enhance the quality of lives for their citizens. Cities and communities are becoming smarter with respect to security, traffic control, transportation, and delivery services.


What are the main challenges to getting fibre across the entire MENA? How do we overcome them?

Perhaps the main two challenges to getting fibre connectivity across the entire MENA region are political stability and allocating the required budgetary resources for fibre-based network deployments. As you know, the MENA region consists of nearly 110 million homes. Fibre connectivity, however, has only covered less than 10 percent of the total households according to our estimates. Fibre-based broadband networks require substantial monetary investments and are long-term projects in nature. Many MENA countries are large in terms of area size and diverse topographies which make it more difficult to deploy fibre nationwide. Hence, service providers tend to focus on populated cities where they can monetise their networks faster.

It is also unfortunate that several MENA countries are not politically stable where it is difficult to invest in any infrastructure projects. Other challenges may include the predominance of utilising existing legacy copper networks for fixed broadband services via xDSL technologies or LTE wireless networks to provide broadband services. Additionally, the introduction of 5G broadband services may delay FTTH rollouts progress in several countries. Another important challenge is being able to push fibre deployments closer to rural areas where it is less attractive for operators to invest. Therefore, government and service providers must work together to overcome these challenges and develop long-term strategies to enhance national broadband networks.


Are there proven business models for getting fibre adopted? How can they be made better?

There are several proven business models that will help accelerate fibre deployments across the MENA region. However, each country has its own regulatory strategy that is adapted based on their telecom services schemes and economic environment. In most countries fixed telecom services are provided by incumbent service providers where legacy copper networks are still in use, therefore, it is more economical to provide fixed services through ADSL or VDSL. Other countries that are more economically advantageous have taken the steps to switch off copper networks and adopt fibre-based networks. Alternative private service providers and government-owned utilities may also contribute in developing the fibre infrastructure with the support of government regulatory strategies. A few MENA countries have also adopted the open access strategy where all providers can utilise each other’s networks through bit stream service agreements. This is probably one of the best approaches to utilize existing and planned fibre-based networks and avoid duplications. Most importantly, this strategy will provide end-users to select and switch their service providers using the same fibre connection. This has worked to accelerate fibre adoption in Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar. Ultimately, public-private partnerships are always proven to work well in increasing the use of fibre nationwide.

What is something people should know about fibre but don’t that you think is really interesting or exciting?

Many people think of optical fibre as a medium of carrying signals from one point to another in telecommunication systems through the use of fibre cables connected to their home or office. Although this might be the basic purpose and widely use of optical fibres, but there are many applications that are dependent on the use of optical fibres. Cellphones, tablets, and laptops for example send and receive signals simultaneously via cell towers or Wi-Fi terminals without having to be connected to a cable. However, all cell towers are connected to each other with fibre cables where all cell signals are offloaded down to the fibre-based fixed networks for much faster reception and better quality triple-play applications. End-users will be able to surf the internet at a faster speed, work from home, enjoy watching sports events, playing electronic games, downloading videos, and chatting in real-time with ease. All this is only possible if the network used is supported and connected with optical fibre. 5G will not work properly without a good fibre-based network to support it. Optical fibres are also extensively used in many industries such as utility companies, Oil & Gas, military, national security, traffic control, transport and railroad companies. Most of these companies and government agencies use fibre in their SCADA systems for monitoring and control purposes in addition to internal communications. Fibre optic is also used in data centres to connect servers and terminals to each other. In addition, optical fibres are used to connect CCTV cameras and different sensors that are used for several applications.


 Fujairah FZ Fujairah 4442 ,Dubai

     United Arab Emirates

[email protected]


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