Ooredoo teams with Nvidia to develop AI-ready platform for MENA

Ooredoo teams with Nvidia to develop AI-ready platform for MENA
From left: Ronnie Vasishta, SVP of telecom at Nvidia; and Aziz Aluthman Fakhroo, Group CEO at Ooredoo

Qatar-based telecoms player Ooredoo Group announced on Sunday that it has signed a deal to become an Nvidia Cloud Partner (NCP) to enable development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the MENA region.

Under the deal, which was signed last week during TM Forum’s DTW24 event in Copenhagen, Ooredoo will collaborate with Nvidia to develop an AI-ready platform powered by Nvidia’s full-stack innovation across systems, software, and services.

Part of the plan involves Ooredoo deploying thousands of Nvidia Tensor Core GPUs in its AI data centres to create a GPU-as-a-Service offering for the region, providing governments, enterprises, and startups with access to advanced AI and machine learning tools, including generative AI.

Ronnie Vasishta, SVP of telecom at Nvidia, said the offering will optimise processes and drive operational efficiencies across industries.

“Ooredoo Group combines deep enterprise and consumer relationships with the ability to invest in and deploy AI infrastructure and services,” he said in a statement. “By providing Nvidia’s full-stack AI computing platform to customers, Ooredoo will help make it easier for their customers to deploy generative AI applications and services.”

Ooredoo Group CEO Aziz Aluthman Fakhroo added that its collaboration with Nvidia is part of its broader strategy to boost AI infrastructure in the MENA region by enabling countries where Ooredoo operates to establish local clouds. This will not only facilitate the development of local AI ecosystems and applications and reinforcing data security measures, but also drive economic growth, job creation, and technological innovation across the region, he said.

“Implementing Nvidia's full-stack platform for accelerated computing and generative AI, Ooredoo is equipped to be at the forefront of the AI revolution in MENA, driving digitalisation and innovation as the leading digital infrastructure provider in the region,” he said. “Working with Nvidia, we aim to meet the significantly growing demand for accelerated computing infrastructure to support advanced AI models.”

The deal has raised media speculation on how this plays in the context of a move by the US government in August 2023 to restrict exports of Nvidia GPUs to select countries in the Middle East.

That restriction is an extension of an existing ban on exports to China and Russia. The US has never disclosed which Middle Eastern countries are covered by the ban. It also never gave a specific reason for the expansion, although experts have speculated it may be related to countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates developing closer AI ties with China.

The export controls apply only to Nvidia’s advanced A100 and H100 chips. The Ooredoo/Nvidia announcement did not specify which Nvidia GPUs would be deployed. However, the fact that the deal was signed at all indicates that the expanded US export controls won’t apply. Nvidia told Reuters at the time the Middle East restrictions were announced that they would not have an “immediate material impact” on its results.

It may also depend on which countries Ooredoo plans to offer GPU-as-a-Service. The announcement specifically mentions in Qatar, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait, and the Maldives. It does not mention Iraq and Palestine, where Ooredoo also has operations.

Ooredoo’s Indonesian unit, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, signed a similar deal with Nvidia during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.

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