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ABU DHABI: Etisalat is now ready to launch 5G service for all consumers with its infrastructure and network ready to support all 5G devices to be launched by global mobile device manufacturers in 2019.

With continuous investments in technology and innovation on the network, etisalat’s infrastructure can enable 5G connectivity today for all fixed and mobile devices expected to be launched in the first half of this year.

Saeed Al Zarouni, Senior Vice President, Mobile Networks, etisalat said: “Etisalat’s technical teams are building 600 5G sites to enable 5G coverage across the country. Our network and infrastructure will be ready to provide the service as soon as the 5G mobile handsets are available in UAE.

"Our management’s strategy to focus on digital innovation and to ‘Drive the digital future to empower societies’ have led to investments in superior and state-of-the-art technology solutions on the network.”

High-speed data connectivity

Al Zarouni added that 5G will radically change the lives of the subscribers in the country, he said: “With 5G technology consumers will witness maximum speed of 4.5Gbps and on 4G the maximum speed was up to 600 Mbps.

The network can now provide faster data connectivity combined with higher speed.

"The larger bandwidth will provide the capability to handle larger number of connections in any geographical area. With ultra-high speed and low latency services to the user 5G will enable users to enjoy uninterrupted 4K video streaming, best gaming experience, AR/VR services and autonomous transport.

"The 5G network will also empower government entities and the enterprise digital transformation, smart city development and the fourth industrial revolution.”

Etisalat is aiming to build 300 5G Etisalat towers in H1 2019 and 600 5G sites during 2019.

Journey towards 5G

Etisalat embarked on its 5G journey in 2014 when it started constructing the network with a dedicated team of engineers and specialists dedicated to build one of the most advanced networks in the region.

In 2016, Etisalat Group signed a partnership deal with Expo 2020 Dubai which aimed to make it one of the fastest, smartest and best-connected places in the world during the global mega event.

Etisalat will enable Expo 2020 Dubai to provide visitors and participants with a cutting edge, immersive digital experience that brings the Expo themes to life for the 25 million expected visitors. Etisalat will also provide on-site Wi-Fi capable to handle up to 300,000 people on-site in a day.

In the same year, a number of high-profile strategic partnerships were signed with global technology companies to install and implement advanced technologies and solutions on the network. A series of tests were carried out in the infrastructure to gauge the extent of 5G readiness and get an insight into the upgrades required to launch the 5G network first in the region.

The goal was to provide access to high data transfer speeds to get the network ready for data heavy applications and content to be broadcasted across media platforms during the global event Expo 2020 Dubai.

Another significant milestone in 2016 was the successful completion of the first live 5G experiment using millimetre waves (mmWave).

This showcase was the first of its kind in the MENA region with Etisalat becoming the first telco globally to test speed at 36 Gbps on a 5G network at Gitex Technology Week.

This was followed with another global milestone at GITEX in 2017 with a speed showcase of 71Gbps setting a new global record in data transfer speed using e-band and massive MIMO technology.

Setting a 5G milestone

In 2018, etisalat set global benchmarks in 5G in technology and on the network. Etisalat successfully conducted a 5G trial with outdoor mobility at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

The trial demonstrated 5G capabilities in a real world environment over a live network, including tests on speed, latency and beam steering.

The 5G trial system used 800MHz of spectrum in the 15GHz band, demonstrated over 20 times greater performance than what was currently used in 4G networks.

20x

Performance multiple of 5G over 4G networks

The trial also achieved an aggregate site throughput of more than 24Gbps a significant improvement over current 4G networks.

Another major milestone for etisalat and the telecom industry was the launch of the first commercial 5G wireless network in the UAE becoming the first telecom operator in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to achieve this technological milestone.

Etisalat was the first operator to have a fully developed commercial 5G network available to provide gigabit internet services to its customers. The network will fuel enterprises digital transformation, IoT, smart cities and the fourth industrial revolution.

The foundation of this commercial launch was laid in 2017, where etisalat was one of the operators globally to launch a pre-commercial 5G network in certain areas of the country. Etisalat also demonstrated an advanced 5G based drone equipped with a 360-degrer VR camera and 4K streaming experience.

In the first phase of the 5G launch, fixed wireless services and mobile services will be provided in selected locations in UAE, which will gradually expand to other parts of the country depending on consumer demand and requirements.

The commercial fixed and mobile devices will be available for consumers in this phase. Etisalat was aiming to achieve a download speed of 5Gbps for wireless access and more than 1.5Gbps for CPE (customer premises equipment) devices.

This was followed by the prestigious and global achievement of connecting and announcing Expo 2020 Dubai as the first major commercial customer in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region to access 5G services. Etisalat connected Expo 2020 Dubai to its 5G network, the first World Expo to be connected on this network.