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Du is seeing a slower shift of consumers from 4G to 5G compared to 3G to 4G

(Image credit: Three)

Despite the rollout of the fifth generation of cellular technology (5G) in the UAE, Dubai-based telecom operator du is witnessing a slower shift of consumers from 4G to 5G compared to 3G to 4G.

Saleem Al Blooshi, Chief Technology Officer at EITC, the parent company of du, told TechRadar Middle East that they are creating the supply [infrastructure] this year and the demand will start happening next year.

“Right now, we are covering 8% of the populated area of the UAE with 5G and 15% by the end of the year. We expect to cover 100% of the UAE in the next three years. We expect 5G smartphones to overtake 4G by 2022,” he said.

However, he said that there are some challenges in the rollout of 5G such as space availability in the towers and power consumption on 5G as it is very power-intensive at this stage.

“5G requires four times the power of 4G. However, the main challenge is the availability of handsets. We created the supply but there is no demand for 5G,” he said.

When 4G was launched, he said that there was a requirement from the end-user for video application. “When a consumer moved from 3G to 4G, there was a 180-degree different experience. From 4G to 5G, there are no use cases that demand the 5G infrastructure.  The potential use cases of 5G are augmented reality, VR and video streaming that requires high bandwidth,” he said.

No business models 

Technically, Al Blooshi said that all the components for 5G are available but there are no business models.

“There is no clarity in the business model. Will the operators provide the AR and VR content or will the technology providers or the content providers,” he said.

However, Al Blooshi said that du is in talks with different content providers in the country.

“2020 will be the year for creating a demand for 5G. Based on the acceleration of the demand, the infrastructure rollout will also gain speed. By end of the year, there will be 800 base stations for 5G and it is expected to more than double by the end of next year,” he said.

Samsung will be launching its 5G handset by the end of this month.

Al Blooshi said that the demand for 5G handsets from Huawei, Oppo and ZTE is not that high and has already started rolling out its 5G router to accelerate its fixed-line services where fibre optic is not available but the intake is not that high as fibre optic cable is always across the UAE.