x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Telecoms power up UAE mobile networks

Dropped calls, sluggish internet connections and even running out of battery power should soon become less frequent annoyances for some UAE mobile users.

Dropped calls, sluggish internet connections and even running out of battery power should soon become less frequent annoyances for some UAE mobile users.

The telecommunications operators Etisalat and du plan to improve their mobile networks, amid increasing competition as penetration rates reach saturation point.

The second-biggest telecoms company in the UAE, du said yesterday that it had invested Dh400 million (US$108.9m) in its mobile network in a move it said would cut phone battery consumption by up to half, as well as boosting data speeds.

The telecoms operator has struck a deal with Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) to provide hardware and software to upgrade its network.

The move will double the capacity of voice calls du can carry, and enable it to offer data rates of up to 42 megabytes a second in selected locations, the company said. The improved speeds will be above the operator's high-speed HSPA+ network.

New network software will control the power consumption of individual mobiles more efficiently, extending the battery life of phones by up to 50 per cent.

"The call success rate will increase, and the call drop rate will decrease," said Kalle Autto, head of the du customer team at NSN. "In the same frequency bandwidth we can carry double the amount of voice calls that we were earlier."

Some upgrades will only be available "in the areas where you need lots of capacity", he added.

Other companies aside from NSN also maintain certain parts of du's HSPA+ network, which delivers next-generation mobile broadband.

"We are upgrading our portion of the network to 42MBps and other vendors are doing the same," said Mr Autto.

Etisalat said last week that it was also upgrading its mobile infrastructure. The operator said the maximum mobile internet speed available over the network will be upgraded to 42.2 megabytes a second in the last quarter of this year.

This is more than double the maximum mobile internet speed previously available over the national HSPA+ network, the operator said.

Irfan Ellam, the vice president of research with Al Mal Capital, said moves by the two operators were caused by the "saturation" of mobile phone lines.

"It looks as if the UAE market is reaching saturation in terms of subscriber numbers so the new area of growth for both Etisalat and du is mobile data," Mr Ellam said.

He added that while "headline" speeds of 42 megabytes a second may not be achieved in reality, the improved mobile internet speeds will be adequate.

"Irrespective of whether or not [that speed] is achievable, users will notice a difference … you'll be able to stream video very easily."

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae