5G users will account for 73 per cent of all mobile subscriptions in the Gulf region within the next five years, the second-highest in the world after North America where the adoption rate will be 84 per cent, according to Swedish telecoms firm Ericsson.
Western Europe will trail the Gulf with 69 per cent of its users using 5G, followed by North East Asia at 65 per cent and Latin America at 34 per cent, Ericsson said in its biannual mobility study on Monday.
The Gulf region will have 62 million 5G mobile subscribers by 2026 and is emerging as one of the most “diverse and advanced” markets in the adoption of fifth-generation cellular wireless networks, Zoran Lazarevic, Ericsson's chief technology officer for the Middle East and Africa region said at a media roundtable on Monday.
A 5G network has an internet speed of up to 1.2 gigabits per second, which will gradually evolve to 10Gbps – more than 100 times faster than 4G. Moreover, 5G has a latency of less than one millisecond, compared to 20 milliseconds for the 4G network. That allows for better quality and higher resolution video calls as well as downloads that are delivered faster to smartphones and tablets.
Total 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million globally by the end of this year, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day, according to the survey.
In May 2019, Etisalat – the UAE’s biggest telecoms operator – became the first service provider in the region to announce the availability of a 5G network, supporting smartphones for commercial use. It was soon followed by UAE’s second-biggest operator, du, and Saudi Telecom Company and Bahrain's Batelco.
“The report shows that we are in the next phase of 5G, with accelerating roll-outs and coverage expansion in pioneer markets such as the UAE,” Wojciech Bajda, vice president and head of GCC at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, said.
Nearly 80 per cent of the Gulf's total mobile data traffic in 2026 will be carried by 5G networks, according to Ericsson. The average monthly data usage in the region exceeded 18.4 gigabytes at the end of 2020, followed by India at 14.6GB and North America and Western Europe, which were both at 11GB.
“More than 300 5G smartphone models have already been announced or launched commercially … the cost of devices is going down and, moreover, the phone replacement cycle in the GCC is much shorter than other parts of the world. And most of the new phones are coming with 5G support,” said Mr Lazarevic.