China's Oppo teams up with Etisalat for 5G

Chinese smartphone company is the first to demonstrate a phone connected to the fifth-generation network

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Andy Shi, President of OPPO Middle East and Africa at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Alkesh Sharma's story

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo is working with Etisalat to test its 5G-enabled devices  with the aim to double its sales and revenue in the Middle East and Africa in 2019.

"Our technology is ready and if testing goes well, we hope to launch 5G devices in this region very soon," Andy Shi, president of Oppo for MEA, told The National, without specifying a timeline.

The UAE is taking the lead on 5G – the next generation mobile network set to accelerate download speeds by up to 100-times – and Oppo's collaboration with the operator will allow it to study the market and launch the  phone once the network is ready, he added.

Etisalat is constructing 1,000 5G towers in the UAE and will be spending Dh4 billion on digital transformation and improving mobile and fibre network this year. One of Oppo's biggest competitors in 5G, Huawei, has already partnered with Etisalat, Du and Saudi Telecom Company to provide network infrastructure across the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2019.

Both Oppo and Huawei are also racing to get their 5G-enabled smartphone to market.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February, Oppo claimed to be the first manufacturer to successfully connect to a 5G network through a smartphone with its Oppo R15 – beating Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

“Now we are looking forward to 100 per cent growth in our smartphone sales and revenues in the MEA region,” Mr Andy said. Oppo started selling its gadgets in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and the UAE in 2014 and entered Saudi Arabia and Nigeria this January.

“Presence in Saudi Arabia has consolidated our regional business. It is a very high-potential market and, now, we feel more complete on business mapping in the Gulf,” said Mr Andy. Last year’s best performing markets for Oppo were Algeria and Egypt, he said.

The Chinese company started selling smartphones globally in 2008. Oppo moved its regional headquarters from Cairo to Dubai this January to concentrate on sales in the Arabian Gulf. Mr Andy said the UAE’s combination of excellent infrastructure, open economic policies, and a strong talent pool make it an ideal hub to expand Oppo’s business in the Gulf and meet its 5G goals.

"5G-enabled phones will be the central force in IoT [Internet of Things] technology. Gradually, we will expand our 5G offerings but currently we are focusing only on smartphones," said Mr Andy, and the MEA is central to its ambitions.

“MEA is the fastest-growing market and contributing significant revenues in the Oppo’s global business. Comparing it to South-East Asia and India, it is not a very big market, but high purchasing power of individuals makes a difference,” he said.