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Making O2 5G a reality: Mohamed Aziz

In October we launched our 5G network in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Slough. With another 14 cities and towns before the end of 2019 and 30 more leading up to summer 2020. We’ve worked with our business customers on 5G trails and build out the 5G use cases that can help them transform their businesses.

Behind O2’s 5G rollout is a dedicated and diverse team of people, working hard to bring about 5G’s benefits to our customers.

Meet Mohamed Aziz, who has been working on O2’s 5G Strategy and Evolution for more than two years

What do you do at O2? What part of the 5G delivery are you involved in?

I lead the RANSE (Radio Access, Network Strategy & Evolution) Team at O2. We’re responsible for defining and setting out the vision and strategy for all the technology components we need to implement O2’s network business objectives and serve our customers effectively.

My team started looking at 5G nearly two and a half years ago, when the 5G specification was being developed in the 3GPP Standard. We needed to look ahead and identify what the requirement was likely to be and how the technology might evolve. From there, our role was to set out our strategy for how and when we would launch 5G, the technology we would use, as well as the partners and vendors we would work with.

How did you end up doing what you do, and why O2?

Well, I’ve been at O2 for more than 14 years now, so 5G will be the third iteration of technology that I’ve helped to launch. I joined the company for the launch of 3G back in 2004, where my role was to ensure that the 3G service and performance met with customer expectations.

From there, I moved into a design role and then into evolution. I was responsible for taking the technology we have and evolving it so it worked more effectively and efficiently. It seemed a natural progression from there to take on the strategy role that I’ve had for the last two years.

What do you see as the biggest impact that 5G will have?

5G will give the consumer a completely new rich experience that is unconstrained by speed and bandwidth. It’ll deliver levels of interaction and engagement with the environment not possible with previous generations of technology.

For business, 5G will be completely transformative, introducing a whole range of capabilities not possible until now.

What’s different about 5G through your eyes?

What makes 5G different is that the technology evolved by starting with a simple question: why? Why do we need the new technology? What are the gaps and possibilities compared to existing technology? Some of the answers to these questions shaped the technical requirements for a 5G system against which the 3GPP Standard was developed, and helped to conceive new services and applications that are starting to realise those possibilities.

How do you see your role evolving in the future?

5G doesn’t happen in a big bang but rather a progressive journey. So we have a schedule of launches that we will continue to roll out over the coming months. 5G itself will also evolve in future years.

Without getting too technical, what we have in 2019 is called non-standalone 5G, which you could think of as an extension to 4G. In other words, it needs 4G to operate. But the next evolution will be standalone 5G, which requires a new core and new architecture. So 5G will consume most of my and my team’s time and energy for the foreseeable future.

What are you most excited about that the future will bring?

The next big step change will come from the combined effects of Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The two together will have a profound impact in every walk of life, and I’m really excited about the opportunities and challenges they will bring.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

The pace of technological changes in the Telecom industry is unprecedented.  You have to maintain a laser-guided focus on the things that make a difference and matter to our customers, and keep everyone aligned. Sometimes this can be a challenge as there’s so many distractions.

What’s the one small thing in life that always makes you smile?

That’s easy. My children! I have a six year old daughter, and two boys aged 13 and 15. Watching them play and grow always fills me with joy.

How long would you survive a full digital detox for?

I’ve managed a holiday week without any connectivity at all, but that was certainly enough. And I was with the family at the time, which helped. I wouldn’t have lasted the week without them!

How do you switch off and wind down?

I’m a fanatical chess player, and I’ll never leave a Sudoku puzzle unfinished (no matter how long it takes!). Many years ago I learned some computer programming, and I enjoy writing simple programmes in my spare time.


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