Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Etisalat plans to have as many as 1,000 5G-enabled towers criss-crossing the UAE this year itself to ensure optimum coverage for the next-generation mobile telephony services.

“Etisalat’s infrastructure can enable 5G connectivity for all fixed devices expected to be launched in the first-half of this year,” said Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat Group. “With 5G, consumers will witness unprecedented maximum speeds of 10Gbps.

“Etisalat’s technical teams are building 5G network sites to enable 5G coverage across the country.”

As part of the wider transition to digital networks, the telecom operator will invest Dh4 billion this year alone, Al Abdooli said. Image Credit: Courtesy: Etisalat

As part of the wider transition to digital networks, the telecom operator will invest Dh4 billion this year alone. With 5G, subscribers can tap into technologies “blending physical and digital realms from augmented reality and virtual to IoT, AI, 3D printing, wearable tech and more”.

“We are stepping into an era that marks the beginning of “intelligent connectivity” underpinned by hyper-connectivity,” the CEO said. “This will have a significant and profound change on individuals, industries, society and the economy, transforming how we live and work.”

Etisalat has always believed in the power of creativity longterm value and success by fostering the growth of tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

- Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat Group

It was early last year that Etisalat conducted a 5G trial with outdoor mobility. The trials demonstrated 5G capabilities in a “real-world environment over a live network, including tests on speed, latency and beam steering”.

The 800MHz of spectrum in the 15GHz band “demonstrated over 20 times greater performance than what was currently used in 4G networks,” the CEO said. “The trial also achieved an aggregate site throughput of more than 24Gbps — a significant improvement over current 4G networks.”

Etisalat, which is the first telecom operator in the Middle East and North Africa to roll-out a 5G network, plans to have maximum impact during next year’s Expo 2020, with the network expected to absorb as many as 300,000 users on peak days.

“It will be a key component of the Expo 2020 “smart site” and deliver a unique and memorable experience for the millions of visitors,” said Al Abdooli.

Corporate revenues and strategy

Last year, the Etisalat Group had consolidated annual revenues of Dh52.4 billion, while the consolidated net profit (after payment of royalty to the federal government) was Dh8.6 billion. This represents an increase of 2.4 per cent year-on-year. It had 141 million subscribers as of end 2018, which includes subscribes in overseas markets where the Group has interests. Its networks operate in 15 countries.

“Our corporate strategy has enabled us to consistently push boundaries, by responding swiftly to global digital advancements,” the CEO said. “We will continue to focus on creating the world’s leading networks across our markets to deliver long-term value to all our stakeholders.”

And 5G will be central to that deployment of cutting-edge services. While the majority of 5G networks are likely to go online by 2020 at a global level, by end 2024 the industry estimates 1.5 billion 5G subscriptions. This would account for 17 per cent of all mobile subscriptions at that time.

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“Etisalat is already exploring use cases with new technologies and services that will blend our physical and digital worlds,” said Al Abdooli. “A series of tests were carried out on the infrastructure (in 2018) to gauge the extent of 5G readiness and get an insight into the upgrades required to launch the first commercial 5G C-band network in the region.

“The goal was to get the network ready for data heavy applications and content to be broadcasted across media platforms during the Expo 2020.

“Etisalat continued to deliver on its promise of strong performance despite the increasing global economic challenges and mounting pressure facing the telecom industry. We have showcased good results underpinned by continued investments toward next-generation services.”

Dialling into future innovators

Etisalat is expanding its coverage within the local start-up universe.

The telco is “looking at nurturing entrepreneurial growth by creating partnerships that will provide them the platform to grow and showcase their abilities,” said Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO. “We were able to work together with these young innovators and entrepreneurs to imagine, design and co-create the future.

“Our teams focused on solving complex challenges while leveraging assets to create unparalleled opportunities. With the accelerator whose mission is to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of strategic sectors in the region, Etisalat worked with government entities and scale-ups to co-create solutions to address both the local and global challenges of the future.

“This partnership was part of Etisalat Digital’s strategy to bring the latest technologies and innovations to enable a smart ecosystem.

“Etisalat has always believed in the power of creativity long-term value and success by fostering the growth of tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs. We are constantly looking to tap into the possibilities of the booming start-up ecosystem.”