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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority announces 5G initiation in the UAE 

Though the technology is unlikely to be available commercially until 2019

The 5G robotic surgery display at the Etisalat stand at Gitex Technology Week in October. Pawan Singh / The National
The 5G robotic surgery display at the Etisalat stand at Gitex Technology Week in October. Pawan Singh / The National

The launch of ultra-fast mobile services has come a step closer in the UAE, after the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) formally initiated IMT2020, or 5G technology in the country.

But 5G – which promises theoretical download speeds of up to 20Gbps – is unlikely to become available to users until at least 2019, as industry specifications for the technology have only been agreed on last week.

The telecommunications regulator said yesterday it had given operators the go-ahead to provide 5G services, enabling them to begin building network infrastructure in the country from early-2018.

“We are proud to be among the first countries that apply the 5G technology of telecommunications, which is in line with our leadership directives and the UAE

vision 2021,” said TRA director general Hamad Al Mansoori.

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UAE operators have been talking up the prospects of 5G technology for more than three years, even though a lack of standardisation has prevented the development of commercially available network equipment and mobile handsets. Du and Etisalat have over the years conducted several 5G trials in conjunction with Nokia Networks and Huawei.

In addition to faster consumer internet, the faster downlink and uploads offered by the technology are viewed as key to the development of smart cities and the Internet of Things, enabling the rapid sharing of data between networked devices and sensors for remote monitoring purposes.

Industry standardisation body 3GPP last week finalised the first implementable specification for 5G New Radio, supported by major telecoms carriers and network vendors including Vodafone, Huawei, AT&T and Verizon, paving the way for the development of network equipment and 5G-enabled consumer

devices.

While the technology theoretically offers download speeds of up to 20Gbps, according to guidelines specified by the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, such speeds are widely seen as unobtainable in real-world conditions.

Etisalat said yesterday it had launched the first 5G “broadband experience” in the Middle East region, achieving downlink speeds of 5Gbps and 2Gbps in uplink in various locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The operator said it would deploy 5G services in major cities in the UAE next year, ahead of a deployment of the technology by the year 2020.

Du, meanwhile, plans to begin its deployment of 5G by 2019, completing the roll-out across the country by 2023.

US operators Verizon and AT&T plan to commercially launch 5G services in 2018, primarily using the technology for home broadband rather than mobile services.