Q&A:The future of Kazakhstan is inextricably linked with 5G
Kazakhtelecom, the largest info communication operator of Kazakhstan, believes the future of the country’s telecommunications market is based on the deployment of 5G networks to implement technology-related projects in the field of the IoT and smart cities.
The national operator is currently actively promoting all three of these areas in Kazakhstan, using their advantages for the development of the consumer services segment.
We caught up with CIO Nurlan Meyrmanov to discuss its progress.
How far has the company moved in all these areas?
Currently, the portfolio of Kazakhstan’s largest operator includes various types of consumer services, including fixed and mobile communications, broadband internet access and digital television, and the company is also developing various innovative services.
Tell us which projects are most important for Kazakhtelecom in the future?
The main and most important project is the deployment of a 5G standard network in Kazakhstan. At the moment, a lot of work has been done on connecting fibre optic cables to the base stations; in addition, we have conducted an extensive study of all the equipment suppliers on the market, and have already chosen some products among them.
An important event to start 5G testing in Kazakhstan was an agreement between Kazakhtelecom and Ericsson signed at MWC19 Barcelona. The first joint demonstration of our capabilities took place in the city of Nur-Sultan within the framework of the Astana Economic Forum this year: testing took place in the frequency range of 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz. And on 21 June, at a demonstration in Almaty, we showed the work of the equipment of the Ericsson Radio Systems line in the 27.5GHz to 28.3GHz radio frequency band with a 800MHz channel width.
The company will continue testing various application scenarios of 5G in Kazakhstan: 5G networks significantly reduce the delay in data transfer between devices and information exchange services, which makes the technology indispensable for the public sector, industry, and smart city solutions. We are planning to deploy a pilot zone, which will precede the commercial use of 5G networks. We plan to move to the industrial stage of the project by 2021, until this time we will have to not only deploy the network itself, but also go through a rather complicated 5G standardisation process.
Is Kazakhtelecom the main initiator of the deployment of 5G network in Kazakhstan?
Of course, since it’s obvious to us that the deployment of this network in the country is not an end in itself, but a tool for introducing digital technologies, without which neither the industry nor the state can develop normally.
Therefore, we see our role as the main active participant in the process of creating a national 5G platform that is capable of ensuring effective digital transformation of the entire economy and spheres of life. At the same time, we understand that in order to achieve these goals, transformation needs to start from ourselves - and this project, among other things, will allow us to develop our own company, to bring it to a new level.
That is, creating new technological platforms in the country, we will develop ourselves: doing business that can implement 5G networks in the form of cloud services, fixed access networks, voice and video communication, the IoT, digital video, entertainment will inevitably require us to create a new business models, new processes and organisational structure. All this will allow us to work in the mode of constant technological update (CI/CD), to create and provide services in large quantities, in the most automated mode and with minimal time costs.
These are interconnected things: while improving and developing the country's telecommunications infrastructure, we grow ourselves, acquiring new abilities and capabilities, and this is not so much about quantitative, as about qualitative growth.
What infrastructure has Kazakhtelecom built for IoT and M2M?
The IoT is our second most-important priority: the IoT promises to be one of the main drivers for the growth of IT industry revenues. Following this current trend, Kazakhtelecom is implementing a project to build the largest M2M/IoT network in the CIS based on LoRa technology. Coverage of a low-power wireless network will cover all potential segments of the IoT application: utilities, transportation, security, production facilities, control of urban areas, street lighting, consumer appliances. As part of the first phase, the construction of a network in Almaty, Astana and Shymkent was completed, and in total during the project implementation it is planned to install over 400 LORA base stations in all regional centres and cover the whole country with them.
In addition, Kazakhtelecom is actively developing a relatively new area of e-commerce. Kazakhstani economy is becoming transactional, which means that infrastructure of the operators must be reliable and secure in order to meet the requirements for conducting transactions. Kazakhtelecom has become the operator of fiscal data, and in recent times it has connected a large number of cash registers to its system. We are building an infrastructure that allows you to make basic connections in the online mode, test new cash registers, develop your own payment instrument and plan to work more actively in this direction in the future.
These technologies lay the foundation for the deployment of smart city projects: what projects do you have in this field?
Smart city is a fairly large block in our portfolio: we are the infrastructure operator of the project Smart Aqkol. Together with our partners, we created the conceptual model smart city based on combining information flows to create data-driven cities. The pilot project was chosen, a small town Akkol near the capital of Kazakhstan. The Smart Aqkol project became a kind of testing ground where Kazakhtelecom gained a unique experience both in integrating various infrastructure elements and in combining them into one platform. Solutions that are now being applied and tested in Akkol may soon be implemented in other cities of Kazakhstan.
In particular, the project has built a situational centre, which is equipped with the necessary infrastructure for making decisions on the management of public utilities based on reliable and timely data on urban resources. The emergency services of the city are subordinated to this situational centre. Due to its proximity to the data centre, the situational centre provides effective management and has direct access to the main arteries of the main data transmission channels. At the same time, the mentioned Processing Centre, in which the aggregation and data processing is carried out, allows you to reserve the necessary engineering infrastructure and minimise the risks of power penetration and destruction of data.
What projects are you implementing as part of consumer services development?
The main efforts of the company today are focused on the provision of access services via optical lines: more than 1 million ports have already been built using GPON technology, the number of active users has exceeded 700,000. At the same time, the use of copper infrastructure continues, but we keep the classic telephone business to the maximum from the unique features of Kazakhtelecom. Worldwide, there is a migration of fixed subscribers in the direction of mobile networks, and this process is justified, since mobile services are more interesting. But we have found a solution that allows us to keep a regular landline phone: starting from last year, we offer a service that allows us to acquire mobile and fixed-line services with one account.
In addition, we set an ambitious goal to provide all rural communities in the country with high-speed internet. According to the results of the project, more than 1,200 villages with 4.8 million people will be provided with broadband access to the internet. The implementation of this project will provide high-speed access to more than 3,500 schools, hospitals, government agencies and other socially important institutions. In addition, one of the effects of the project will be the development of innovative services, as well as increasing their penetration in rural areas, creating access to services such as telemedicine, access to online education, and e-commerce services. The total length of fibre-optic communication lines will be more than 20,000 km, and building this line is no less important for us than deploying a 5G network.