The UAE is determined to play a pioneering role in the development of the sixth generation of mobile communication networks by ramping up research investments and developing local talent, a senior official at Abu Dhabi's Technology Innovation Institute (TII) said.
The upcoming standard, known as 6G, requires a collaborative effort, with the UAE capital in particular planning to lead more industry events to gather the best minds to accelerate its development, said Merouane Debbah, chief researcher for artificial intelligence and telecom system at the TII.
"Abu Dhabi is already playing a very important role in gathering industry players from different countries" to accelerate the development of 6G standards, he told The National at the inaugural Abu Dhabi 6G Summit on Thursday.
"There is a massive investment being done in R&D for this," Mr Debbah said, without providing any figures.
Aside from the summit, which is intended to become an annual event, Dubai is also set to host the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) next year.
The WRC, held every four years, is a forum for crucial policy and technical regulatory discussions. But its most important mandate is to update the Radio Regulations — the sole international treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum and the geostationary satellites and non-geostationary satellite orbits.
The ITU is a specialised agency of the UN responsible for matters regarding information and communications technologies.
The Cop climate change summits, which will be hosted by Egypt this month and the UAE in 2023, will also be used as a forum to promote next-generation networks that adhere to sustainability goals, Mr Debbah said.
6G promises even faster speeds and efficiency compared with the latest 5G technology.
It would enhance the capability of today's 5G networks by 100 times, according to industry studies.
Furthermore, latency, which is the delay between sending and receiving information, will be reduced by a factor of 10 to 0.1 millisecond, and energy efficiency of networks will drop by a factor of 100.
Abu Dhabi and the UAE are in the midst of a major digital transformation programme, which seeks to transition the Emirates from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based one.
"The investments we are doing today in R&D go within the vision of this roadmap," Mr Debbah said.
The government, which seeks to position the UAE as a global technology hub, has introduced several initiatives for this purpose, which in turn have attracted interest and investment from major technology players.
The UAE was also ranked first in the Middle East in the 2021 edition of the Global Innovation Index, cementing its status as among the world’s leading countries in adopting the latest technology.
Having a pioneering role in the development of 6G is also an opportunity for the UAE to develop local talent and encourage patenting technologies "to show the capabilities" of the country, he said.
"We’re bringing and forming the best talents here in the UAE, not just in 6G but other technologies. We are encouraging a lot of Emiratis to get PhDs and to dig more into research," Mr Debbah said.
The industry is also seeking to avoid a repeat of last year's chip shortage — largely caused by a spike in consumer electronics demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most recently by geopolitical issues led by the Russia-Ukraine war — which resulted in massive supply chain disruptions and delays in the adoption of 5G.
The UAE also seeks to address the challenges in communications, including reducing fragmentation to close the gap between the users of newer standards and those stuck in older networks.
"Fragmentation happens between people who are pro-technology who are moving extremely fast in adoption and those who are laid back because they are not able to understand [how to adopt]," he said.
"The way to solve that problem is to make cost-effective products and make the user experience easy."