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|16 February, 2019

UAE ready for fast lane with 5G in 2019

In first phase, fixed wireless, mobile services will be provided in selected locations.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at "re:Store" Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A customer tests a smartphone during the launch of the new iPhone XS and XS Max sales at "re:Store" Apple reseller shop in Moscow, Russia September 28, 2018.

REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Telecom subscribers in the UAE will be able to enjoy 5G services as both etisalat and du are ready to roll out the service for consumers by the end of March, Khaleej Times has learnt.

Impeccable sources said both the telecom service providers are ready to launch 5G services for general subscribers as soon as 5G-enabled devices will be available in the market by next month. They said 5G network of etislat and du is ready but couldn't be launched as vendors and smartphone manufacturers have yet to unveil 5G-enabled devices in the market.

"Our network and infrastructure will be ready to provide the service as soon as the 5G mobile handsets are available in UAE," Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice-president for mobile networks at etisalat, told Khaleej Times on Saturday.

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Al Zarouni said etisalat's technical teams are working tirelessly to enable 5G coverage across the country.

"Etisalat is aiming to build 300 5G etisalat towers in first half of 2019 and 600 5G sites during 2019," he said.

The Abu Dhabi-based firm was the first operator to have a fully-developed commercial 5G network available to provide gigabit Internet services to its customers. The network will fuel enterprises digital transformation, the Internet of Things, smart cities and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Saleem AlBlooshi, chief infrastructure officer at Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), said du is paving the way for 5G in the UAE.

"The availability of 5G services in the UAE is one step closer to reality as we recently announced our full readiness and ongoing network evolution to offer 5G network very soon. This is ahead of the anticipated commercial rollout of the 3GPP compliant 5G terminals in 2019," he said.

5G launch

In the first phase of the 5G launch, fixed wireless services and mobile services will be provided in selected locations in UAE, which will gradually expand to other parts of the country depending on consumer demand and requirements. The commercial fixed and mobile devices will be available for consumers in this phase.

"Etisalat was aiming to achieve a download speed of 5Gbps for wireless access and more than 1.5Gbps for CPE [customer premises equipment] devices," the company said in a statement to Khaleej Times.

AlBlooshi said 5G will bring wireless communication speeds never experienced by people before, as well as extremely low latency and massive capacity. No other mobile network in the past has been able to achieve these three pillars together.

"One of the main drivers of 5G is the proliferation of video. It's expected that video consumption will increase eleven-fold than current usage. 5G will also cater to high-definition viewing such as 4K and HD viewing. These viewing levels are increasing the need for much higher wire-less speeds. This correlates with another driver for 5G: virtual reality and augmented reality," he said.

5G devices

Analysts and leading industry players are of the view that 5G service launch for general consumers will be good for vendors and smartphone manufacturers as it will bring new life to the industry.

Referring to the persistent decline in smartphone shipment in 2018, they said 5G will help revive sales but they warn of a gradual pickup due to the slow launch of new 5G-enabled devices.

According to a forecast by GlobalData, about 100,000 5G-ready smartphones will be functional in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of 2019. 5G device sales will pick -up momentum next year and hit one million mark and by 2023 about 16 million 5G smartphones will be operational in the region.

"The availability of commercial mobile 5G services in 2019 in the GCC will be mainly driven by national digital transformation plans, end-users' enhanced mobile broadband requirements and telcos' need for increased network capacity and spectrum usage efficiency," said Houda Bostanji, principal analyst at GlobalData.?

"By the end of 2023, we project the number of mobile 5G subscriptions globally will reach 806.9 million, 8.1 per cent of total mobile subscriptions worldwide," Bostanji said.

Rasheed Al Omari, principal business solutions strategist at VMware, 5G networks will not be deployed overnight.

"We expect to see 5G deployed in areas with the highest demand first, such as the Expo 2020 Dubai venues and other areas that will require the very latest technology and services. Operators who deploy 5G will gain an early advantage by being able to offer future-oriented services on their network while also benefitting from the massive increase in network efficiency. This is likely to help retain and win the highest value business and consumer customers," he said.

He said there will also be challenges in that operators still need to gain a true return on investment on their 4G infrastructure.

"We therefore expect to see 4G and 5G networks co-exist for many years to come, and we're excited to work with the telecom operators to help them maximise the benefits of all their 4G and 5G infrastructure," Omari said.

 

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