Haytham Al-Ohali has been the vice minister at the Ministry of Communications and Informational Technology since June 2018.
An electrical engineer by qualification, he began his professional career as a system engineer at Motorola. Following his stint at Motorola, he worked at ICDL Saudi Arabia as the deputy general manager from April 2003 to April 2006. Before landing at the ministry, he remained associated with Cisco for over 12 years. During his time in Cisco, Al-Ohali worked in different capacities until his elevation to the position of managing director in May 2017. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Seattle University in the US.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan on Saturday, Al-Ohali said he hoped 5G will be launched in Saudi Arabia “either toward the end of Q2, or early Q3 this year.”
The uptake of the technology is expected to add $19 billion to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product, and 20,000 jobs, by 2030.
While 5G will be available to consumers, its real use is for technologies like driverless cars and in machine-to-machine communication, Al-Ohali said.
“Downloading a movie in four seconds is not the promise of 5G … 5G is the first network that’s not built for the consumer. It’s built for machines, it’s built for industry,” he said. The vice-minister said Saudi Arabia is in talks with industry groups over the prospect of 5G use for digitization within factories, and is also studying its use in health and education.
Nations globally are racing to develop 5G networks, an issue complicated by US concerns over the security of equipment produced by Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei.
Al-Ohali said that any company meeting security requirements was welcome to do business in the Kingdom.
“Like any other technology … in Saudi Arabia, there are certain security requirements. We welcome any vendor who complies to come and operate in Saudi Arabia,” he said.