Expo 2020 executive Mohammad Al Hashemi with etisalat executive Saeed Al Zarouni yesterday, after signing an agreement on 5G that will help enrich Expo visitor interactions. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News


Expo 2020 Dubai will be etisalat’s first commercial customer in the region to access 5G services, meaning visitors to the Expo will be able to use virtual and augmented reality at 4K resolutions, technologies that can fully utilise the super-fast internet network.

Etisalat has installed a base station (antenna) at the site and Expo 2020 will be testing and demonstrating its services and technologies on the fifth generation network.

“From now till the launch, it [5G] is giving us an opportunity to investigate and implement new technologies and solutions such as virtual reality and augmented reality, autonomous car and internet of things,” said Mohammad Al Hashmi, senior vice-president for Innovation and Future Technology at Expo 2020.

“We plan to optimise every visitor’s experience by digitally connecting them with their surrounding environment and enriching their interactions throughout the Expo journey,” he said.

Moreover, he said that it is also going to open up a new world of opportunities. “Lot of these technologies need bandwidth to use and is not possible with the current 4G network,” he said.

“There are lot of projects under the pipeline that utilises 5G but we cannot disclose it now, as we want to provide the wow factor and create that exciting experience. So, we have to keep a secrecy until it comes, but when the event happens, we will have the best technology available in the world and will be one of the most connected places in the world,” he said.

5G is the evolution of 4G with a faster download speed and with a latency [delay that happens in data communication over a network] of one millisecond compared to between 15 and 20 milliseconds with 4G.

For example, downloading a movie that takes 10 minutes on 4G will take only a few seconds on 5G.

Moreover, he said that Expo 2020 will offer free WiFi, more than 8,500 WiFi access points, more than 2,000 antennae for 5G and more than 2,500 antennae for 4G.

Saeed Al Zarouni, senior vice-president for mobile network at etisalat, said that 5G will offer a speed of 1.3Gbps in the initial stage and phase two is coming with a maximum speed of more than 5Gbps.

Etisalat has already demonstrated 16 live channels with 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) on the 5G network at the site.

He added that Etisalat will launch 5G for wireless and fixed lines for triple play (voice, internet and fixed line) for consumers this year but smartphones and CPE [customer premises equipment] (wireless router) are not available now.

“5G handsets will be available in the second half of next year. Right now, we have limited CPE production and when commercial CPE is ready by end of the year, then customers can benefit from 5G services,” he said.

During the launch of 5G this year, he said that it will not cover the entire UAE and it will be available at only hotspots and based on demand, same as the case in 4G.

As 5G connects more devices than people, Al Zarouni said that 5G’s bandwidth will exceed today’s consumption and capacity. Current estimates are that there will be 50 billion connected devices globally by 2020.

According to Ericsson’s first-quarter mobile traffic report, global mobile data traffic grew around 54 per cent year-on-year. Total mobile data traffic is forecast to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 43 per cent, reaching close to 107 exabytes (EB) per month by the end of 2023.

The report said by 2023, 20 per cent of mobile data traffic worldwide will be carried by 5G networks, which is 1.5 times more than the total of 4G/3G/2G traffic today.