UAE consumers 'won't pay premium' for superfast 5G says telecoms regulator

But users are expected to use much more data on fast packages

epa08013765 A 5G logo hangs from a pavilion at the 2019 World 5G Convention in Beijing, China, 21 November 2019. The event runs from 20 through to 23 November 2019. China has built over 100,000 5G base stations around the country.  EPA/WU HONG
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Consumers will not have to pay a premium for superfast 5G services, the UAE telecoms regulator said.

Majed Al Mesmar, deputy director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), said residents should also not be charged more for data than they are for 4G.

The Emirates is rolling out the infrastructure to pave the way for the service, which enables users to download films over the internet in seconds instead of minutes.

Superfast connectivity is also heralded as revolutionary for commerce and healthcare.

When there is an increase in technology we should always expect hackers to be sitting on the other side working out ways to make attacks

“You are not going to be paying extra for 5G,” he said when asked about a hike in costs in other countries.

“We never charged more for 4G or 3G so why would we do it now?”

But users would get through much more data - which per 1GB costs about 20 per cent more than the global average - than on a 4G package.

“I think there is confusion about the costs of 5G,” said Mr Al Mesmar.

“Buying a package on a 5G phone won’t cost you more than what you would pay for 4G. What you pay for is the package that you enrol yourself in.”

Britain's first 5G provider EE charged customers Dh255 per month for 10GB of data - about a third more than 4G users pay - along with Dh800 for a compatible handset. But average quickly came down to about Dh140 when rival providers launched their services.

In South Korea, the first country to embrace 5G, charges a similar amount for limited packages but costs rise for larger packages.

5G products have recently come onto the UAE market as coverage expands.

A number of compatible phones are available, including the ZTE Axon 10 Pro, which costs Dh3,150 upfront with a monthly tariff of Dh137 a month over two years - similar to 4G models.

The telecoms official spoke in a live Twitter Q&A ahead of the UAE 5G conference in Dubai on December 8-9.

Mr Al Mesmar said 5G should be available in 100 per cent of the country within five years.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai is to be the first area in the UAE to be fully covered by a 5G phone network, but the available speeds remain unclear.

Mr Al Mesmar said the UAE currently had 60 per cent 5G coverage and would reach 100 per cent within five years.

The rollout is expected to be slower than some countries.

The TRA said about 30 per cent of phone users are expected to be using 5G by 2024.

Mr Al Mesmar also said there is work under way to ensure consumers are protected.

5G is regarded as having stronger encryption of data, but the rise of the Internet of Things - in which everything from fridges to traffic lights to cars are connected to the internet - opens up more devices to hacking.

“When there is an increase in technology we should always expect hackers to be sitting on the other side working out ways to make attacks,” he said.

“If we are able to share this information between governments and countries we can do something about these cyber attacks.

“But will it stop? I would say no.”

The panel also discussed the many ways in which 5G will transform lives.

“You will have cars that are connected to traffic lights so it’s important to have the proper response times when lights turn red," he said.