Middle East giants jostle for 5G-first status

15 MAY 2018

Etisalat, STC and Ooredoo all staked a claim to have become the first operators in the world to launch a commercial 5G network.

In three separate announcements, Etisalat, STC and Ooredoo stated they had launched 5G in their respective home markets of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with all three also claiming the moves were “firsts”.

Notably, although the networks have been positioned as “live” and “commercial”, they are still unusable by consumers because 5G-compatible devices are yet to launch.

Both Ooredoo and STC noted as much in their announcements.

World first
Etisalat said in its statement, released on the same day as Ooredoo’s, that it had launched “the first commercial wireless network for 5th generation on C-Band in the UAE”, thus becoming the “first telecommunications operator in the Middle East and North Africa to achieve this great technological achievement”.

It added the first stage of the launch includes 5G fixed wireless access internet in some locations in the country, which will gradually be expanded depending on customer needs.

Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat, said it was “committed to being part of the modernity process” in the UAE.

Ooredoo had said on the same day (14 May) it had become the world’s first operator to deploy a 5G network on C-Band, representing a “breakthrough” for the industry.

Today, STC followed its major rivals in the region by making a similar claim.

In a brief statement on its website, the Saudi Arabian company declared it had “launched the first live 5G network in MENA”. The operator said the launch followed successful technical experiments and trials on 5G technology concluded in January 2017.

Deployments of 5G in the US (from AT&T and Verizon) are also expected at the end of this year, while South Korea-based KT is gearing up to deploy the technology commercially in early 2019.

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Kavit Majithia

Kavit joined Mobile World Live in May 2015 as Content Editor. He started his journalism career at the Press Association before joining Euromoney’s graduate scheme in April 2010. Read More >>

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