2020 was supposed to be a great year for mobile networks, connectivity, IoT, and 5G in general. With early 5G networks having been deployed in the past couple of years in countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, the region was destined for new breakthroughs and the start of mass rollouts.
Obviously, things did not go as planned. Right around the start of the year, the world saw one of its biggest pandemics strike, shutting down countries, freezing economies, while overloading medical infrastructure. 5G had to wait for the foreseeable future.
Now, with the world coming to terms with the ‘the new normal,’ excitement for the technology is finally ramping up again. There are many more 5G-ready smartphones on the market, including the annual market-shifting Apple handheld, the iPhone 12. This, coupled with telecom firms that are ready to continue their expanded rollout of these new networks, and the fact that effective vaccines are now looking much more plausible, has led the world to finally embrace 5G again – conspiracy theories aside.
According to data by ReportLinker, there will be 2.7 billion 5G mobile subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2025, which is equivalent to 26.3% of total global mobile subscriptions. Asia-Pacific will account for the largest share of worldwide mobile 5G connections with 63% at end-2025, followed by Europe, North America, Africa & Middle East and Latin America.
Demand for 5G highest in the UAE
The UAE has the highest share of population that is excited about 5G across every age bracket, of which 70% would switch providers for convergent 5G services and unified billing, according to a recent survey conducted by Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm.
The survey consisted of responses from 6,020 consumers in France, Germany, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. The replies were collected in October, when countries were mostly going through second waves of virus infections and accompanying measures to restrict activities and movement. According to the survey, the crisis has made consumers more reliant on telecom services, in particular as working from home has become a new standard.
Rogerio Dienes, Head of the Communications, Media and Technology Practice at Oliver Wyman, said: “The UAE has for long positioned itself as one of the most progressive and innovative countries in the world when it comes to technology and connectivity and was the first Arab nation to launch 5G. As such, coverage is a key development criterion for the UAE digital society vision – empowering new services for consumers, enterprises and society is crucial.”
With exponential gains in both speed and capacity, nearly half of the UAE youth said they were excited or very excited about the opportunities presented by 5G in the country, the largest expression of interest across all countries and age groups surveyed. The technology will enable the current and upcoming generations to have access to a variety of emerging digital technologies from Connected Factories to Industry 4.0 initiatives and Connected Vehicles. The survey also pointed to faster home broadband speed and unlimited mobile data among the top factors that could drive increased willingness to pay in telecom customers internationally.
As the UAE prepares to build out and densify its next generation mobile networks, it is seeking to extend 5G connectivity to millions of consumers. UAE based telecommunications services providers such as Etisalat have since been instrumental in securing the country’s reputation as a leading 5G innovator, with the provider switching to a 5G network in May 2019.