ZTE eyes Middle East smart city projects
ZTE CTO says ‘smart’ developments will accelerate GDP growth.
October 21, 2013 3:22 by Steven Bond
The Shenzhen-headquartered telco and IT solutions giant, ZTE, is eyeing smart city development opportunities as part of its regional expansion – while being championed by the Chinese government.
Scores of ZTE execs are at this week’s GITEX Technology Week in Dubai to promote a range of projects, from the newly launched fixed-line terminals to flagship smartphones and green energy solutions across the African continent. However, one of the biggest topics being discussed is the development of ‘smart cities’ in the Middle East region.
“The smart city topic is very hot right now. Only a few years ago someone put forward the idea of a ‘smart world’ concept, but actually that comprises smart countries – which consist of smart cities,” explains Evan Wang, CTO of ZTE MEA’s solution sales and marketing division.
China is currently undergoing what has been labelled a ‘second urbanisation revolution’, after the government began pushing the development of IT infrastructure across its major cities last year. This provided tremendous market opportunities across the board, especially for the biggest ICT players.
Companies, such as Huawei, ZTE and Smart China Holdings are now looking to capitalise on a host of smart projects, spanning all major verticals, including education, health and construction. The new wave of urban master planning is focussed on integrating IT systems for greater levels of connectivity and digital intelligence. Now, firms are looking overseas to expand such initiatives.
“Obviously infrastructure is crucial, both in terms of broadband and wireless connectivity. Secondly, there needs to be a platform in place with integrated data centres for information storage,” says Wang. “A smart city isn’t just beneficial to the telecom sector, it is a benefit for ‘livelihood’ industries, such as eHealth and eEducation – it’s an accelerator for the growth of GDP.”
China’s eagerness to go smart means great business opportunities for Middle East firms. As many as 154 Chinese cities have raised proposals to build a smart city, according to the China Communications Industry Association under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
“When compared with the Chinese example, Dubai is well on the way to becoming a true smart city. The infrastructure is very good. From the basics, such as hot-spot WiFi connectivity to smart gates at the airport, this is a good indication that much is already being done,” adds Wang.
ZTE does not have any of its own smart city initiatives currently under way in the Middle East region, but is already embedded through partnerships with major telco firms. ZTE has been co-operating for a number of years with STC, Mobily and Zain, all in Saudi Arabia, as well as local operators in Lebanon and Bahrain, among others.
Wang admits that even China is “still on the way”, but the right infrastructure is in place. The Chinese government is considering how best to deploy more innovative services for both enterprises and eGovernment.
The firm entered the Middle East market many years ago and already has a large team in Dubai, mainly focusing on African telco provider, MTN.
“We strive to be involved in enterprise and government sectors. We will not just focus on telecoms here, however, in the future we will co-operate with local partners to work with governments and enterprise IT,” Wang concludes.