Etisalat, the UAE's biggest telecom operator, will be ready to provide 5G service to all of its customers in 2019.
The telco plans to build 300 5G towers in the first half of 2019 while setting up 600 5G sites during the year, providing the infrastructure and network to support all 5G devices launched by global mobile device manufacturers like Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, it said in a statement on Saturday.
The new 5G sites - which will house Etisalat’s network infrastructure and hardware - will be located at strategic locations to cover different parts of the Emirates.
“Our network and infrastructure will be ready to provide the service as soon as the 5G mobile handsets are available in UAE,” said Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice president, mobile networks, at Etisalat.
The new network has the potential to radically change the lives of mobile subscribers in the country, Mr Zarouni said. “The network can now provide faster data connectivity combined with higher speed. The larger bandwidth will provide the capability to handle a larger number of connections in any geographical area.”
5G, which refers to fifth-generation wireless networks, will be ten times faster than the current network, known as 4G. Its speed will enable real time video streaming and better gaming experiences and augmented reality services, as well as safe autonomous transport.
Etisalat, which had a monopoly in the UAE until du entered the market in 2007, owns and operates subsidiaries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The telco also owns a 28 per cent stake in Saudi telco Etihad Etisalat (Mobily).
“Our management’s strategy to focus on digital innovation and to drive the digital future to empower societies have led to investments in superior and state-of-the-art technology solutions on the network,” said Mr Zarouni, without disclosing any investment figures.
According to US researcher Gartner, two-thirds of companies globally plan to install 5G by 2020.
Expo 2020 Dubai has become the first major commercial customer in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia to access 5G services through its partnership with Etisalat. Etisalat’s network will provide the most advanced digital and telecom services to Expo 2020 Dubai and its millions of visitors, supporting an expected 300,000 users on peak days.
“The 5G network will also empower government entities and the enterprise digital transformation, smart city development and the fourth industrial revolution,” Mr Zarouni said.
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, according to Etisalat, which added that commercial and mobile devices - such as 5G-enabled chips, smartphones, routers and modems - will be provided to consumers in this phase.
Telecommunications operators in the UAE stand to gain an additional $3.3 billion (Dh12.1bn) in revenues by 2026 from the digitalisation of industries through 5G, according to a report from Swedish technology company Ericsson last year.