Image: SAMENA Telecommunications Council CEO Bocar A. Ba
A version of this story also appears in the April 2019 print issue of CommsMEA.
It’s well-known that telecommunications executives are some of the busiest people on earth. So getting more than two of them – much less dozens, or even hundreds – together in the same room is a bit like the proverbial herding of cats; it’s not exactly the easiest thing.
And yet, year after year, the SAMENA Telecommunications Council has been able to do just that, with its SAMENA Leaders’ Summit. Taking place as it has for the past few years at Atlantis, The Palm in sunny Dubai, the 2019 edition is this month. And the main theme to be discussed is the topic that’s unquestionably the most pressing for the global telecommunications industry: 5G.
Sure, it’s been discussed time, and time (and time), again, by everyone from executives to media to pundits to cab drivers to chatty aunts and uncles visiting for dinner while in the region to random strangers in the lift as you descend (or ascend, depending on the direction you’re heading) the lift in your office or apartment building or the hotel you’re staying at while in town for business or pleasure. Anyone who attended the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February (or really any other tech or telecommunications event, like Capacity Middle East in early March in Dubai) can also attest 5G was, far and away, the topic on everyone’s lips.
Bocar A. Ba
But as SAMENA (short for the South Asia/Middle East/North Africa region) CEO Bocar A. Ba says, executives and key stakeholders are uniquely positioned to bring about real change in the industry – hence the importance of getting them all together to come up with a “roadmap” for development of a technology.
“We are witnessing an early adoption of 5G,” he says.
“What will the outcomes be? What will be the business model? What are the impediments? The challenge is about having the proper understanding of 5G. It’s very early stages, but best practices is very important.”
With executives coming from the likes of AT&T (which recently became the first North American operator to join SAMENA), Paris-based Eutelsat, all of the major Middle East and African telcos, and more, Ba also points out the importance of making sure real results are achieved – not just talking about 5G.
“SAMENA is not a platform that is convening people for the sake of convening people,” he says.
“It’s very important for us to have outcomes.”
Ba says last year’s Leaders’ Summit brought together executives and key stakeholders and decision-makers from more than 29 different countries, with spectrum harmonisation and allocation at the top of the agenda. While he says he expects real progress on 5G this year, he stresses the most important thing that participating executives should take into account: using their positions to help make the world a better place with their technology.
“In the wake of 5G, the enablement of digital services is also important,” he says.
“We believe connecting the other half (of the world) will be a great opportunity.”