4G for the UAE: With 'explosive' consumer demand expected for 4G mobile internet in the UAE, local retailers are preparing to stock up on compatible smartphones.
Next generation's need for speed
Retailers in the UAE are preparing to stock up with phones equipped with so-called "4G" technology, as demand for high-speed internet on the go is set to explode.
Etisalat's launch of a 4G network - the fourth generation of mobile phone broadcast standards - will boost the availability of smartphones in the UAE, said retailers.
Consumers in the Emirates can expect to see more devices from big-name brands that will be capable of handling more data-intensive services such as streaming video.
"If the brands have them, we will have them definitely, if the likes of HTC, Samsung, Apple, RIM [have 4G phones already], there's no reason why we won't have them," said Ashish Punjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky'sElectronics. "The products are there, it's just that if there wasn't any 4G here, there was no reason to introduce any 4G products here," said Mr Punjabi.
Dirk Busse, a mobile broadband solution architect at the telecoms infrastructure company Nokia Siemens Networks, said he expected "explosive" demand for 4G from UAE consumers.
"The latest figures show that there is over 200 per cent mobile penetration, so the logical next step is providing customers with super-fast broadband," he said.
Consumers can expect to see phones such as the HTC Inspire, which is 4G-compatible, available in the UAE. Fans of the iPhone may also be able to benefit from the network upgrade because the iPhone 5, which is expected to be launched next month, is rumoured to be 4G compatible.
However, 4G is a mode that can be switched on or off - as it is battery intensive because of the phone sending more data back and forth at faster speeds.
"It's nice to have, but you may not use it all the time," said Mr Punjabi. But he said all high-end or signature devices would eventually incorporate 4G, making the new type of phones more widely available in the market.
Existing 4G-enabled devices attract a premium in price. In the US, electronics manufacturer HTC charges US$499.99 (Dh1,834.95) for its EVO 4G phone.
Matthew Willsher, the chief marketing officer at Etisalat, said he expected the price of 4G smartphones to start relatively high compared with those compatible with the 3G networks.
Etisalat's 4G internet service will be delivered using long-term evolution (LTE) technology. "I would envisage that … prices for LTE devices will probably start at higher prices than 3G [handsets]. There are new components in there, and faster chipsets," he said. "But over time, the prices of those devices will come down."
The first devices to be compatible with Etisalat's 4G network will be computers, rather than mobile phones. This will be made possible with 4G "dongles" that plug into a laptop or desktop computers.
"At launch, the devices for the LTE network will be the USB dongle-type devices that will enable people's laptops, or desktops if they want them to, to access the network," said Mr Willsher.
Launch of 4G "dongles" in the UAE will be followed by compatible smartphones and tablets. "Over the next six months we'll start to see tablets arrive with LTE, and handsets arrive with LTE."
Ali Al Ahmad, the chief corporate communications officer at Etisalat, said the company's 4G network was "ahead" of the devices compatible with it.
"A company like Etisalat will encourage manufacturing of the devices," he said.