x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Patchy performance but it is early days

Etisalat's 4G mobile broadband proved super-fast in Abu Dhabi, but unreliable in Dubai.

Etisalat's 4G service when tested was patchy. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
Etisalat's 4G service when tested was patchy. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters

Watching 20 YouTube videos in the back of a car going over Sheikh Zayed Bridge sounds pretty impressive.

But then, that is what you should expect to be able to get with the super-fast 4G broadband services that have been launched in the UAE.

Etisalat and du have both turned on their next-generation mobile internet networks, which advertise top browsing speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps).

Yet in a test of Etisalat's 4G service conducted by The National, reception proved patchy - and speeds were far below the maximum performance levels claimed by the UAE operator.

In the Al Ittihad area on Abu Dhabi island, the 4G service was running at a top speed of 42 mbps.

This performance was maintained on a drive down Al Salam Street and across Sheikh Zayed Bridge, and proved enough to watch 20 YouTube videos simultaneously. Ever safety-conscious, The National tested the 4G network in the back of a taxi, not the driving seat.

But off Abu Dhabi island, things went downhill. The fastest 4G connection - which uses technology called long-term evolution (LTE) - was lost around the Al Raha area.

Connection switched to slower mobile networks, with speeds of between 1.25 mbps and 7.3 mbps, along the road to Dubai. In The National's test, 4G LTE network was unavailable along the entire route and the connection to the slower service was patchy.

In Dubai, the 4G connection was similarly disappointing. In both The National's office in Dubai Media City and the densely populated Jumeirah Beach Residence area, the 4G LTE connection was not available. The device connected to a slower network, offering speeds of 7.6 mbps - about half the top speed of the office Wi-Fi.

A 4G-LTE connection was finally found elsewhere in Dubai Media City and around the Ibn Battuta Mall. The top speed recorded was 27 mbps - still well below the maximum claimed by Etisalat.

Still, it is early days for 4G, given the scant availability of compatible devices.

In the meantime, it may be better to watch those YouTube videos one by one.