Customers in the UAE will be able to experience speeds of 10Gbps and above and will be able to download larger files in milliseconds in 2020 through fifth-generation cellular technology [5G].
Telecom operators in the UAE are offering speeds of 1Gbps speed now with the non-standalone (NSA) network infrastructure.
Operators across the globe are beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure as the final frequency for 5G is not yet fixed. NSA means beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure while standalone (SA) means beaming 5G over the dedicated spectrum and infrastructure.
“Our next milestone for next year will be 10Gbps speed with the deployment of millimetre wave [26GHz-84Ghz] and achieve one millisecond but it is not possible with the current C band [3.4GHz-3.8GHz],” Saleem Al Blooshi, Chief Infrastructure Officer of EITC, parent company of telecom operator du, said in an exclusive to TechRadar Middle East.
Industry focuses on speed
The spectrum for narrow-band IoT [700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz] is fixed in the 5G space while 2,600MHz and C band is fixed for mobile network in the UAE.
Moreover, Al Blooshi said the industry is focused on the speed rather than the latency.
“The current standard for 5G is NSA and is focusing only on the speed. The standard and the full equipment for SA with IoT capabilities is expected by the end of 2020 or early 2021,” he said.
For NSA, du is using the existing 4G infrastructure and adding 5G components such as radio network and antennas.
“If my 4G is a Huawei or any other company, the hardware has to be the same company. Huawei and Nokia are supplying the NSA 5G infrastructure needed but we haven’t finalized the network suppliers for SA,” he said.
“Du’s network is ready for millimetre wave deployment but the international standard bodies haven’t finalised the final spectrum allocation for SA,” Al Blooshi said.
Latency offered currently in 5G is same as 4G
Because the network is NSA, Al Blooshi said the latency offered currently in 5G is the same as 4G of 15-25 milliseconds.
“5G is relying on the 4G for the signaling and uplink. Du’s network offers a speed of 1.25Gbps on 5G. Today we are building the ecosystem and it will grow depending on the demand. Right now, there is no killer app that requires 1Ghz or higher throughput. Acceleration of the roll out depends on the availability of ecosystem – handsets, network and applications,” he said.
Al Blooshi is confident and expects the adoption of 5G to gain traction after 2021.
For watching a HD on YouTube or Netflix, a customer needs only 20Mbps speed. The advantage of 5G for customers right now is the download speed and they can download a big size file in minutes.
“We are in the same case as with 4G. When 4G was upgraded to 250Mbps, there was a debate which apps need that high throughput but the pipe was filled with the demand from customers and entrepreneurs with killer apps. YouTube and Netflix came up with HD content and other applications boosted the demand for 4G.
“During events, customers were interested in uploads rather than downloads and we used to change the network resources more for upload than download. Right now, 4G can offer a speed of 1Gbps but the advantage of offering 1Gbps in 5G is less expensive,” he said.
Du to cover 15% of UAE this year
In 4G, Al Blooshi said that du needs three carrier aggregation and massive MIMO [multiple-input and multiple-output] implementation to get 1GHz but in 5G, the operator can get 1GHz with one carrier aggregation.
Du is expected to have 700 5G NSA base stations and cover 15% of the UAE through 5G network this year with an investment of AED 1.5b and the plans for 2020 will be decided in September.
Dubai Future Foundation has become the first 5G government entity in the region to adopt the 5G indoor coverage from du.
“5G will bring more value to home users, especially in the smart home space. ZTE routers for 5G are already available in the market. There will be no special plans and packages for 5G customers now and it will depend on the use cases,” he said.