LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – MENA, DUBAI: The Middle East may be tipped to play a leading role in the deployment of 5G networks, but operators from the region are not expecting to reap short-term financial rewards from rollout of the next-generation technology.
In a keynote session this morning (26 November), executives from Etisalat and STC admitted that 5G remains a future proposition, despite the region making headlines this year with claims of the industry’s first global launches.
“There is no consumer proposition for 5G yet,” said Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat International (pictured, second from right). “There are no consumer devices yet; in 2019 there will be very few, one or two, and not the best devices. We will have to wait until 2020-2021 for those. So don’t expect 5G to make a big impact compared to 4G: 4G is already providing fast speeds and low latency for consumer needs.”
Dowidar said 5G will be of most benefit to ultra-low latency applications such as remote surgery and autonomous cars: “but these will come with time when the technology is available.”
STC chief executive Nasser bin Sulaiman Al-Nasser (pictured, second from left) agreed “there is huge promise of 5G,” with “everything sensored, connected and powered by the cloud.” But, he warned, “in the next five years it’s difficult to see the return from 5G; yes it’s necessary to invest but it will take time.”
Both executives and GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti (pictured, right) urged the region’s regulators to provide a more supportive environment for launch of 5G services.
Giusti stated: “At the GSMA we will be focusing on how we can ensure we do a better job of making sure policy makers understand the business of the industry we are in and also the impact it’ll have on 5G: 5G is not a given.”
“We want to give regulators and governments our message that they can influence these outcomes in different ways; you can really put yourself ahead of others with the right choices.”
Al-Nasser reflected that: “It’s very challenging when there are high spectrum fees for something that will take so much time to return.”
Meanwhile Etisalat’s Dowidar noted “the important element for 5G is big chunks of contiguous spectrum…It’s very important for 5G to succeed.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter