Nvidia to launch in Middle East amid U.S. curbs on AI exports to region, Ooredoo CEO says

Ooredoo CEO, Aziz Aluthman Fakhroo, sits in his office during an interview with Reuters in Doha, Qatar June 4, 2024. REUTERS/Arafat Barbakh

DOHA (Reuters) - Nvidia has signed a deal to deploy its artificial intelligence technology at data centres owned by Qatari telecoms group Ooredoo in five Middle Eastern countries, Ooredoo's CEO told Reuters.

The agreement marks Nvidia's first large-scale launch in a region to which Washington has curbed the export of sophisticated U.S. chips to stop Chinese firms from using Middle Eastern countries as a back door to access the newest AI technology.

It will make Ooredoo the first company in the region able to give clients of its data centers in Qatar, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait and the Maldives direct access to Nvidia's AI and graphics processing technology, Ooredoo said in a statement.

Providing the technology will allow Ooredoo to better help its customers deploy generative AI applications, Nvidia's senior vice president of telecom Ronnie Vasishta said.

"Our b2b clients, thanks to this agreement, will have access to services that probably their competitors (won't) for another 18 to 24 months," Ooredoo's CEO Aziz Aluthman Fakhroo told Reuters in an interview.

The companies did not disclose the value of the deal, which was signed on the sidelines of the TM Forum in Copenhagen on June 19.

Ooredoo also would not disclose exactly what type of Nvidia technology it will be installing in its data centres, saying that it depends on availability and customer demand.

Washington allows the export of some Nvidia technology to the Middle East, but curbs exports of the company's most sophisticated chips.

Ooredoo is investing $1 billion to boost its regional data centre capacity by 20-25 additional megawatts on top of the 40 megawatts it currently has, and plans to almost triple that by the end of the decade, Fakhroo said.

The company has carved out its data centers into a separate company following a similar move last year to create the Middle East's largest tower company in a deal with Kuwait's Zain and Dubai's TASC Towers Holding.

Ooredoo also has plans to carve out its undersea cables and fiber network into a separate entity, Fakhroo said.

(Reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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