5G will be the technology that is responsible for shaping almost every aspect of life in smart cities, experts said at the UAE 5G Conference on Sunday.
Organised by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the event brought together over 400 officials and experts in the telecommunications sector to highlight the prospects, challenges, and opportunities related to 5G networks today.
“5G has become the source of speculation, scenarios, promises, and warnings,” said Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority – UAE. “Those who know, and those who do not, have become experts, benefiting from the widespread new social media platforms. Some picture a rosy, prosperous human future, and others spread fear and panic, while people follow both sides, searching for credible information to satisfy their curiosity. We have launched a national 5G strategy, and our telecom service providers have already started implementing 5G on a commercial scale, with vigorous and measured steps based on the outcomes of the World Radiocommunication Conference held in Egypt, which resulted in the allocation of a number of frequency bands for IMT.”
Several experts took the opportunity to talk about the impact of 5G technologies as a key driver of economic growth, far beyond the capacity of the past generations of mobile technology.
“Our lifestyles are changing at a very rapid rate due to technology,” said Tariq Al Awadi, executive director of Spectrum – UAE TRA. “Simply look at the evolution of certain activities such as online shopping and even paying your bills, and see how much they have changed over the last few years. Technology has made all of this possible.”
Al Awadi revealed that by 2023, mobile’s contribution in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region will reach just over $220 billion. In 2018, mobile technologies and services generated 4.5 per cent of GDP – a contribution that amounted to $191 billion of economic value added. As of October 2019, 10 operators had launched commercial 5G services in five GCC Arab States and mobile operators in these countries are aiming to be global leaders in 5G deployments, while certain governments view the technology as a potential enabler for their digital transformation ambitions.
He also noted that the Mena region boasts some of the most penetrated mobile markets in the world. By the end of 2018, nearly half of the 25 countries in the region had unique subscriber penetration rates of 70 per cent or more. In comparison, the global average at the end of the same period was 66 per cent. By 2025, there will be 45 million 5G connections across the region, accounting for six per cent of total mobile connections. Rising smartphone adoption is having a significant impact on mobile Internet uptake and data demand. Total smartphone connections in the Mena region will exceed 500 million by 2025.
Fraser Graham, senior director for Policy Engagement at GSMA, said that 5G will allow operators to go beyond connectivity. “It is not just another bump up in speed; you are talking about a technology that will power nationwide applications such as autonomous vehicles.”
When it comes to the innovation that will come about as a result of 5G technology, Osman Sultan, CEO of du, noted that telecom operators have barely scratched the surface of what is truly possible.
“We have no idea about the innovation that will come out of 5G,” he said. “It will be the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow that will drive innovation with this technology and shape the future of our smart cities. For this innovation to happen though, we need open data. The young digital leaders of tomorrow will take this open data and make the most out of it in ways that we can’t even imagine. As telecom operators, we need to adopt to these new realities or we will become obsolete.”
Ericsson’s Mobility Report for November 2019 expects the global number of 5G subscriptions to top 2.6 billion within the next six years, driven by sustained momentum, and a rapidly developing 5G ecosystem. The report also projects that 5G will cover up to 65 per cent of the global population by the end of 2025 and handle 45 per cent of global mobile data traffic. In addition, the total number of cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections is now seen at five billion by the end of 2025, from the 1.3 billion reported by the end of 2019 – a compound annual growth rate of 25 per cent.