Etisalat to launch 5G trial next year, commercial 5G mobile services launch planned for 2019


Etisalat will begin testing 5G network in 2018 and before commercial launch planned for 2019.

“We are trying to push the entire industry to be ready for 2019 and have signed a deal with Qualcomm. We are in talks with device manufacturers, vendors, applications providers and regulators,” Hatem Bamatraf, chief technology officer at Etisalat Group, said on the sidelines of the Qualcomm Partner Event held in Dubai on Tuesday.

He said that the choice of devices may be limited at the time of the launch, but it will be a good start. “We expect mass adoption to start from 2020. What 5G is going to bring in is new revenue streams for telecom operators. 5G is going to connect things rather than people, so there are huge growth opportunities,” he said.

Bamatraf said that investment, spectrum availability and readiness of the ecosystem will be the key challenges for telecom operators when adopting 5G. He said Etisalat is always keen to be at the ‘forefront’ and ready to invest in any new technology innovation.

Approval of 5G standards are not expected to be completed until 2020, but the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is the driving force behind the standardisation of 5G technology.

Bamatraf said that the 3GPP has released a set of spectrum for operators to test and utilise 5G. There are also options of spectrum refarming, which means re-allocating the existing spectrum [frequency] used for 2G and 3G and utilise it for 5G.

“We will not face spectrum issues in the UAE but in other countries we operate, we need to address that issue. Spectrum will be one of the main things 5G will rely on,” he said.

Qualcomm Technologies had signed a deal with Etisalat to accelerate “5G” deployments in 2019 at Barcelona Mobile World Congress.

“Our involvement with 5G is quite active and we are working with the industry to drive the best technology forward,” said Jay Srage, president for MEA and Eastern Europe at Qualcomm.

He said that Etisalat and Qatar-based Ooredoo are members of the 3GPP and will be the first telecom operators to launch 5G in the region.

Moreover, he said that the UAE is one of the seven countries that is driving the 5G technology. Others are the US, UK, China, Korea, Germany and Japan.

As wireless connectivity expands beyond smartphone and tablets, he said that the connected car industry is an area of expected growth.

In the Middle East, we have been working with stakeholders to lay the foundation for autonomous vehicles future, starting with the basic element of connectivity,” he said.

Qualcomm is expected to launch the first chipset for testing 5G next year and commercially in 2019.

Srage expects mass adoption of 5G chips in 2020.