An etisalat retail store in the Dubai Mall. Etisalat is in the final stage of trials on the advanced LTE network, in order to commercially launch the service in the third quarter of this year. Image Credit: MeganHirons Mahon/Gulf News archive

Dubai: The UAE's etisalat is in talks with iPhone manufacturer Apple Inc on the possible launch of the iPhone 5 as its rolls its fourth-generation mobile broadband — Long Term Evolution (LTE) — later this year, its spokesperson said.

Ali Al Ahmad, Chief Corporate Communication Officer at etisalat, said, "Yes, we are in talks with most smartphone manufacturers including Apple on the rollout of the 4G handset, iPhone 5 later this year. As the first telecom organisation to roll out the 4G network, LTE, in the Middle East, we have already started talking to them for the handsets and chipsets in them."

Etisalat is in the final stage of trials on the advanced LTE network, in order to commercially launch the service in the third quarter of this year. It is scheduled to start distributing the communication devices to make the system ready for up to 150 mbps (megabytes per second) download speed, that will change the way people communicate. The full implementation could take months.

LTE is one of the latest innovations in mobile broadband technologies in the world, with a peak downloading speed of up to 150mbps.

Al Ahmad said his company has invested more than Dh6 billion in the fibre optic network that has helped it to roll out the triple-play E-life home communications and entertainment solution under one package recently.

Du, the UAE's second telecom operator, is also gearing up for the 4G network, said an official of Huawei, the Chinese telecom solutions provider.

"Both etisalat and du are getting ready for the 4G LTE network, although I think etisalat will be slightly ahead in the rollout," Mohammad Atif Jameel, Huawei's Senior Wireless Solutions Manager, told Gulf News on the sidelines of a seminar yesterday. Ali Al Ahmad said the first phase of the LTE rollout will cover all key Emirates in the UAE through 800 base stations.

Investment strategy

Al Ahmad also emphasised etisalat's long-term investment strategy to continue providing the UAE with competitive advantage on a global level and propelling the nation's ICT sector, making it one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

Dr Eisa Al Bastaki, Chief Executive of UAE ICT Fund, said, "The world is moving fast from people-to-people communication to people-to-machines and the future will be dominated by machine-to-machine communications that will ease our lives. The move towards the LTE or 4G will take us towards that direction when machines will talk amongst themselves to work for us, communicate and facilitate things that we want them to do.

"Etisalat's initiative to bring in 4G will change the way we communicate in future."

Etisalat recently completed the fibre-optic network covering the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the first capital city in the world to be fully covered by such an advanced network, along with launch of LTE technology that will enhance the economic and social development of the country and helps offer services which can meet customer's demands.

Mobile communication began with pre-GSM technology, followed by GSM (2G) which was introduced in the early 1990s. It offered better quality and more security, therefore becoming instantly and extremely popular amongst users. The third generation network (3G) paved way for new technologies in the data sector, providing speeds of up to 7Mbps.

During the last quarter of 2010, etisalat made the latest upgrade with the introduction of high-speed HSPA+ technology that delivers customers data downlink speeds of up to 42.2 mbps.

Richer services

Al Ahmad said: "LTE, the fourth generation mobile technology, has been implemented by etisalat in the age of the popularity of smartphones and tablet devices to meet customers' demand for richer services and connected lifestyles. Etisalat's 4G services will bring significant benefits and opportunities to customers and businesses alike with higher throughput and efficiency. In addition, it will bring limitless broadband access to customers anytime, anywhere."

Mobile broadband subscription is growing at 131 per cent year on year between 2008 and 2013 and expected to hit 2 billion by 2013. Globally, 5.1 billion mobile subscriber base represents about 75 per cent of the 6.9 billion strong mankind.

Atif Jameel said, in 2005, internet usage per month averaged about 30 megabytes while in 2010, it went up to 3gigabytes. "However, we expect this to jump to an average usage of 30gigabytes per month per person by 2015 — which warrants a faster network and with larger capabilities. The demand for these technological advancements are coming from the end users," he said.

"By 2020, mobile connections will reach 50 billion — more than 7 times the size of the global population. This will be driven by machine-to-machine connections and every human being will possess several devices with mobile connectivity."