Ooredoo to launch 5G network in Qatar by 2018

The first stage of Ooredoo’s 5G network, the next generation telecom services, will be launched by 2018, which will be commercially available by 2020.

Ooredoo and international companies Huawei and NSN have signed an agreement for the establishment of the first 5G research and development (R&D) centre in Doha, a laboratory that will conduct experiments on the 5G network, Ooredoo Qatar CEO Waleed al-Sayed said.

Once the 5G network is rolled out in Qatar, the internet speed will jump to between 1GB and 10GB per second.  “We are already working to build the first R&D Centre and also a research laboratory with Huawei, which is going to be open for professionals soon,” said Waleed Al Sayed, adding, “We are ready to implement 5G in Qatar as soon as it is standardised and available commercially.”

“Our infrastructure is always ready. We adapt to any new technology very easily because we have selected technology that is agile and can accept new capabilities without making any fundamental changes in our infrastructure,” al-Sayed told Gulf Times on the sidelines of Ooredoo’s Annual General Meeting yesterday.

“The building is ready, and it will take another one year to be operational as we are in the process of putting in place the needful equipment and support services. So the challenge is how fast the standardized can be brought forward to launch 5G,” Al Sayed added, while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Ooredoo Group’s AGM yesterday.

Al-Sayed said 5G is capable of providing Internet speeds from 1GB to 10GB, once available in the market, “but the challenge,” he stressed, “is how fast the standardisation would be brought forward.”

He also said Ooredoo’s “new focus for Qatar and for the entire Group is to enter the ICT arena.”

“We are not playing a big role in ICT, but now we have received approval to invest heavily in building our capabilities in our data centres, and bringing the right talent who will provide managed solutions for our business customers.

“But at the same time we are going to establish ICT capabilities either by building it ourselves or by acquiring a notable company to do it for us. In either case, we are going to be the biggest and most important ICT player in the market,” al-Sayed emphasised.

Earlier during the AGM, Ooredoo chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani said Ooredoo has withdrawn its investments to roll-out WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology in Pakistan, Jordan, and the Philippines. Al-Sayed said Sheikh Abdulla noted during the meeting the WiMAX technology was “not picking up worldwide.”

But for 2016, al-Sayed said Ooredoo’s plan is to focus on its investments and strengthening the company’s footprint, especially in North Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Group, which has big operations in 11 countries (including Qatar), is focusing more in North Africa and Asia.

“In addition to that, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman will always be our main focus. We have already rolled-out 4G in those countries, including Indonesia. Very soon, we will roll-out 4G in Tunisia and Algeria. We are also seriously thinking of rolling out 4G in Myanmar,” al-Sayed said.

He added: “In every country, we have around 11% to 20% of the revenue being spent on capital investment to build our network. The amount would depend on factors such as the country’s geography and size, and it also depends on what we are focusing on and where growth is coming from.”

Shareholders ratified all the agenda of the meeting, including the recommendation of the Board of Directors to distribute a cash dividend of 30 percent of the nominal share value (QR3 per share). The Ooredoo Chairman outlined the company’s significant achievements in 2015, including its success in building data leadership across its markets. Group’s data revenue now represents 37% of group revenue compared to 25% in 2014. Data revenues reached QR12 billion in 2015.

Ooredoo delivered QR32.2 billion in revenue in 2015, and EBITDA of QR13 billion. Net debt is down 4% and net debt to EBITDA ratio improved from 2.3 to 2.2, reflecting Ooredoo’s efforts to have an efficient capital structure in place.

On the newly-launched Ooredoo TV, al-Sayed said Ooredoo now has 15,000 subscribers. “Our customers are increasing on a daily basis. Our ambition is to reach around 80,000 Ooredoo TV customers by the end of the year,” he said.