UAE smartphone users are definitely not holding back on 5G. As 5G handsets become available at multiple price points, owners are upgrading their data packages too. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE telco du isn’t just satisfied with hitting 98.5 per cent network coverage when it comes to 5G services.

“We also have the biggest traffic in the UAE when it comes to 5G network usage,” said Fahad Al Hassawi, CEO, and delivering an emphatic point. “What this shows is du continues to make headway when finding ways to monetize 5G services. We have both the network coverage and the traffic to show for it.”

And it isn’t just sustained take up by UAE businesses for the super-fast current-generation telecom services. du has been making a point of pushing 5G into homes, selling multiple router packages and at subscription rates that users would deem well within their budget.

The results have been showing up in the Dubai-headquartered company’s financials too, and the latest set – for the 9M-2023 – underscores the gains. “du has been taking our share of the overall market growth – and share - in 5G,” said Al Hassawi.

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The best part is that this particular growth story is nowhere near running its course. “The biggest part of our new subscriptions are for 5G or switching to it,” the CEO said. “That it would do well with corporate clients was always a given, but what are seeing is high take up rates with SoHo (small office, home office) and SME subscribers.”

5G becomes broad-based

There’s nothing gradual about the UAE user base switch to 5G possibilities. According to industry sources, subscriptions are way ahead of the global and wider GCC take up rates. “All that was needed was for 5G enabled smartphones to be released in the UAE at various price points, and users got all the impetus to switch,” said a tech retailer. “Users are getting comfortable with the tariffs, and that’s been a big plus for UAE telcos.”

Industry sources say that with the kind of social media and video streaming use through smartphones, there is no way subscribers will keep making do with previous generation networks. "Show users there is a qualitative difference and they will sign up for 5G - in the UAE, it's as straight forward as that," the retailer added.

du subscribers

By September end, du had clocked 8.1 million mobile subscribers, which comes from a mix of retaining and attracting new users. It made for a ninth straight quarter for du of growth in post-paid net additions (of 32,000) and a eventual tally of 1.6 million. The pre-paid subscriber base was 6.5 million, ‘driven by attractive and unique offerings’.

“Again, I don’t think we are nearing growth stabilization rates,” said Al Hassawi. “For one, the UAE resident base is still in fast-growth mode, and we have been quite successful in winning a significant portion of the new residents to our services.

“The second factor obviously remains the high demand for 5G. Combine both, and you still have a telecom market that’s still up for more gains.”

We have been very active pushing further the deployment of our 5G network, which reached 98.5% coverage and is now transporting significant part of our traffic

- Fahad Al Hassawi of du

du's spending plans

At the end of September, du's capex spend was at Dh527 million, much of which - no surprises here - went on 5G deployment and specifically to 'enhance indoor coverage'. "I think the bulk of our spending on 5G is already done, and what we intend to do is maintain current capex levels," said Al Hassawi. "There's no chance of making a major cut in spending. There will still be things to do..."