Preparations under way for Gitex Technology Week, which starts today at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai, Abu Dhabi: Gitex, the largest regional IT exhibition and conference, kicks off today (October 6) Sunday at the Dubai World Trade Centre showcasing the latest trends and product innovations from across the world.

At the event, now in its 39th year, there will be exciting live demonstrations, tech personalities talking about current events and major government announcements.

A key focus of this year's Gitex edition, is 5G — the super-fast fifth-generation cellular network technology promising download speeds 10 to 20 times faster than we have now.

Here's what you need to know about the event:

Robots interact with people at the Dubai World Trade Centre in this file photo taken during the previous Gitex Technology Week. Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

When is Gitex?

It opens today, Sunday (October 6) and runs until October 10.

What do we expect from this year's event?

Likely to dominate this year’s show will be information about 5G, which is expected to significantly impact both consumers and businesses as it becomes available.  

5G can reach, in theory, speeds 100 times faster than 4G, the current technology. This will have an impact on everything from media to virtual reality to security. According to data from Ericsson, there will be 30 million 5G mobile subscriptions in the region by 2024.

Who are the exhibitors?

Many of the biggest names in 5G, including Huawei and Ericsson, as well as UAE telecoms Etisalat and Du, will be exhibiting at the show.

A lot of government agencies and businesses will be showcasing their latest technologies.

On the government side, expect announcements from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Smart Dubai, the government office responsible for Dubai’s citywide smart transformation, is collaborating with 48 government, semi-government and private-sector entities in Dubai at Gitex Technology Week, with the various bodies taking part in the event.

Abu Dhabi Global Market, an international financial centre located in the UAE capital, will be playing a major role as part of Gitex Future Stars, focusing on multiple topics — such as funding for start-ups and FinTech.

Along with ADGM, Hub71, a tech hub launched earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, will also be at the show.

How much is the entrance fee?

A one-day visitor’s pass to the show starts at Dh145

A student pass can be purchased for Dh105.

Visitors at this week’s Gitex Technology Week show can also see exhibitions on Virgin Hyperloop One, with electromagnetically levitated pods travelling through low-pressure tubes at speeds up to 760mph.

They can also listen to technology industry trailblazers, including Silicon Valley mavericks such as Theranos whistle-blower Tyler Shultz; rock-star CMOs such as Bozoma Saint John; and AI pioneers like Dr Ben Goertzel.

What is the significance of Gitex?

With the dizzying pace of technological changes, grasping the sheer scale of innovation underway could be daunting.

Gitex gives us real-life applications of information technology and use cases for innovations that seem out of this world.

The list, below, highlights some of the more interesting developments to watch out for at this year's Gitex Technology Week. But this list from from complete. 

What are the technologies to watch out for?

  • Artificial intelligence (as service) / Deep-learning
  • 5G
  • Robotics
  • Self-driving vehicles
  • New apps / games
  • 8K display technology
  • Nano technology
  • 3D printing
  • Superfast chips
  • Cloud computing
  • Fintech
  • Mobile commerce
  • Data analytics
  • Cryptos / blockchain technology
  • Superconductors

How soon do we move to 5G? 

How soon can it become the de facto network for UAE’s telecom subscribers?

Not for very long, if one goes by the speed at which they have got on to 4G or any of the earlier platforms, say industry experts.

“The 4G LTE network coverage has reached 99.4 per cent and 3G covers 99.8 per cent,” said Saleh Abdullah Al Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat Group.

The FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) has reached 95.7 per cent of homes, maintaining the UAE’s position as a global leader in FTTH for the third consecutive year.

“We expect businesses to lead the 5G revolution driven by their desire to meet their requirements from connecting a single location, to using networking to connecting “smart” facilities with the latest technologies like AI and robotics. All of which will open opportunities to increase revenue, reduce operational costs and create unique experiences.”

First to market

In May, the UAE operator became the first in the region to deploy 5G to consumers and also offer 5G-enabled handsets.

Etisalat was also the first regional telco to provide indoor 5G coverage in selected buildings in the country. The Abu Dhabi Airport thus became the first international terminal to be powered with indoor ultra-high speed 5G connectivity.

This has been a “landmark year for Etisalat 5G advancements … but this is only the beginning,” the CEO said. “We are working closely across different sectors in the adoption of 5G solutions — energy, manufacturing, health care, real estate and property. Technologies like AI and robotics will facilitate remote monitoring, analysing real-time data, bring energy efficiency and enable autonomous transportation.”

Start of the journey

Multiple countries have also embarked on the 5G trip, but take-up rates will need time to develop scale. Current forecasts suggest this could generate $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years for the telecom industry.

Etisalat’s 5G-related planning and investments in infrastructure, first trials and strategic partnerships started in 2014.

“You can witness the power of digital transformation in Etisalat’s major projects like Dubai Parks and Resorts; our partnership with Ministry of Interior on creating a centralised smart fire alarm system “Hassantuk” using state-of-the-art IoT systems, and mega projects like Expo 2020 to be one of the most connected places on Earth with 5G powered innovations,” the CEO added.

“Our teams work closely with large enterprises as well as the SMB sector. The opening of the Hello Business Hub added value through innovation enabling them with the right tools and services to drive into this digital future. We have also empowered small businesses by doubling broadband speeds giving them the professional edge with higher speeds and making their business future ready.”

No limits

Etisalat will be showcasing its next-generation services at Gitex under the theme “5G A World without Limits”. These will take “visitors on a journey of the future, where they will witness the impossible of the past, which has become the reality of today,” the official said.

“We are also demonstrating AI, robotics, IoT, AR and VR technologies that will take centre stage like autonomous transportation in mobility, robotics in health care, underspin implants in the retail area and a unique 5G VR experience in entertainment. Many of these technology showcases are making their presence for the first time globally on our stand during Gitex.”

The Etisalat Group attained Dh25.9 billion in revenues while consolidated net profit reached Dh4.4 billion, representing 3.1 per cent increase year-on-year. In terms of UAE subscribers, it reached 12.4 million subscribers at the end of the first-half of this year.

“Today UAE leads among the top 20 countries with the fastest fixed broadband speed and connectivity in the global fixed broadband speed index,” he said. “Etisalat also witnessed increased broadband penetration this year with the doubling of the speed for businesses and consumers.”

What 5G can do

Etisalat has worked closely with financial entities to deploy technology to bring in more flexibility for a cashless economy. There was the launch of e-wallet, a digital payment service for payment solutions using a mobile device.

Our teams work closely with large enterprises as well as the SMB sector. The opening of the Hello Business Hub added value through innovation enabling them with the right tool.

- Saleh Abdullah Al Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat Group

The 5G network will aid the entertainment industry with faster download speeds, and users can watch 4K and 8K videos on their 5G enabled connected devices. 5G will also facilitate and improve the gaming experience on the network, online and cloud boosting the development of VR and AR gaming devices.

Etisalat’s Robotic Centre of Excellence focuses on performing monotonous tasks more accurately, securely and reliably. Software robots support back-office agents to complete repetitive tasks about 70 per cent faster making sure that along with the robots work is carried out efficiently.

“With 5G, such a centre will get a further boost to address the evolving needs of our customers, with services improving overall efficiency, speed and accuracy of our back-office team,” the Etisalat CEO said.