Today we have made global achievements in 5G, setting benchmarks for the industry. This was backed by the infrastructure accomplishments made in the past that have complemented the 5G network.
With 5G gaining momentum, 4G LTE network coverage reached 99.56 percent and 3G covers 99.82 percent. FTTH has reached 95.7 percent of homes across the UAE, maintaining the UAE’s position as a global leader in FTTH for the third consecutive year.
5G networks and fiber optic networks complement each other, offering a more cohesive experience across fixed and mobile applications. This synergy has also had a great impact on emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles where vast amounts of data will have to be transmitted, and this is where the high speed fiber-based network will help distribute terabytes of information around the world via 5G.
In fixed telecom services, Etisalat in the UAE set a major benchmark by upgrading home and business speeds for free, pushing the country to the top ranking in terms fastest internet speeds. Within a span of less than 10 months, Etisalat increased its entry-level speeds for home and business segment, resulting in Etisalat UAE’s network being crowned as the fastest fixed broadband network last year in GCC, Africa and Arabian region. In mobile, Etisalat was ranked as the fastest network in MENA region, and in the UAE, among the top five fastest countries in the world.
Etisalat’s 5G journey so far
Etisalat took the lead in the launch of 5G in the MENA region, targeting opportunities to maximize value from the delivery of end-to-end 5G enabled solutions. We have continuously engaged with relevant stakeholders to deploy and monetize from the 5G network while at the same time testing and exploring new 5G use cases for the government, business and different industries. The number of 5G connections is set to grow globally to more than 1.4 billion by 2025.
From making the first live 5G video call from the world’s tallest and iconic tower, Burj Khalifa, to becoming the first operator to enable an international airport and a metro station, and to transforming a smart district to empowering an international racing track with 5G connectivity, every milestone in the past year was a result of the long term planning and investment in one of the most advanced networks in the region.
The transformation of the smart district in Dubai will see the rollout of smart devices, services and platforms to drive efficiencies across public amenities, energy consumption, power saving, asset and building management. The 5G network will enable innovative solutions related to smart parking, AI controlled street lighting, air quality, noise pollution and traffic monitoring.
5G is offering a step change in network performance and expectations are high for new 5G-enabled applications and services. The entertainment experience as an example will be enabled by AR/VR cloud gaming and delivery of 8K content on multiple devices, live streaming for sports and other events. 5G-connected home robots, autonomous driving cars, virtual shopping and drone delivery will transform consumer retail lifestyle. The network will also benefit from the use of AR/VR with advanced learning tools. 5G enabled wearables particularly health devices and remote medicine/surgery will significantly improve quality of healthcare for patients.
The first end-to-end 5G standalone call in the UAE achieved over 3.1 Gbps download throughput, which is a second phase of 5G network enabling enhanced next generation capabilities facilitating new business models in applications like Industrial IoT and enterprise grade cloud services. The ultra-low latency will also supercharge applications, which demand real-time responses like mobile AR/VR, cloud gaming, smart factories, meters and connected vehicles.
5G technology deployments through the year are paving the way for new 5G services that will significantly reduce latency essential for a new breed of revenue-generating services such as virtual reality gaming, autonomous driving, augmented reality, IoT and many others. Demand for mobile data is growing exponentially; today, in the era of 5G, it is expected that one in every five users could witness a 10-time increase in the usage of data (up to 200GB every month)
Etisalat was also among the first operator globally to pave the way for 5G roaming between the Middle East and the global mobile and carrier community. Currently, Etisalat’s roaming services cover 840 operators in 217 destinations, and Smarthub IPX provides wide 4G coverage to more than 480 live LTE partners in 173 countries.
5G and emerging technologies making an impact on businesses and the societies at large
5G and disruptive technologies are at the forefront of transition, bringing new opportunities to the industry and the country. UAE has also displayed a clear commitment towards embracing this change as it offers great economic potential by making processes faster, effective, providing insights and efficiencies while creating incredible new experiences.
It is estimated that telecom operators in the UAE would realize incremental revenue of $3.3 billion by 2026 from the digitization of industries through 5G, with manufacturing, energy and utilities, and public safety showing the greatest growth potential.
Etisalat’s 5G network will amplify the use of these futuristic services, target new opportunities and implement 5G use cases across verticals.
We aim to capture opportunities and deploy services based on emerging technologies such as IoT, cloud, big data, AI, robotics, autonomous and AR/VR, becoming a trusted partner that supports transformation in a digitally disrupted and fully connected world. Technologies like AR and VR are expected to contribute significantly to UAE’s GDP mainly $3 billion and $1.3 billion by 2030, respectively.
Our IoT platform connected over 1 million SIMs with renowned entities like Emirates Transport and Xtramix for fleet solutions, and the Ministry of Interior for Hassantuk Smart Fire Alarm solution, which have a massive impact on saving lives and enhancing the state of security for the country.
Etisalat cloud computing services are the foundation for customer’s digital transformation enabling services that will bring flexibility and availability for business critical applications. Here, next generation capabilities like quantum computing play a critical role for its large set of possibilities that a classical system cannot process, transforming business operating models, value chains and revolutionizing entire industries. To enable these hyper and distributed cloud-computing capabilities, Etisalat has made significant partnerships with global players to provide best-in-class solutions.
Our safe city platform is another value addition to Etisalat’s smart solutions portfolio, which comprises of a video cloud platform, AI for behavior analysis, facial and vehicle recognition with a big data platform to correlate events in real time. Etisalat foresees massive growth from cloud services. We are expanding datacenter capacity with the construction of two new facilities in Dubai and Al Ain by the end of this year.
Use of future technologies like blockchain and AI gave rise to the creation of ‘UAE Trade Connect’, a platform operated by Etisalat in partnership with banks to enable digital trade finance in the region. This nationwide platform will enable banks, enterprises and governments to collectively benefit from innovations such as blockchain, AI, machine learning and robotics. It will also safeguard banks from potential fraud losses through advanced detection tools, allowing them to extend additional financing to their corporate clients. Etisalat has also explored new innovative opportunities for consumers like the joint venture with Noor Bank to offer eWallet services aimed at empowering customers with safe, convenient and flexible payment solutions using mobile devices.
Etisalat’s digital capabilities driving innovation internally and externally
Innovation is now embedded in our operations, becoming an integral element of everything we do within and outside the company. Etisalat’s early adoption of technologies, striking the right partnerships with technology leaders and entrepreneurs in close partnership with government and private sector were key factors to push us to innovate and lead in this space.
For instance, with the brick and mortar experience transforming to digital retail, there was an emphasis on providing a digital experience to the consumer. The application of cutting-edge robotics, AI and biometric technologies played a key role in improving business operations for e.g. the deployment of more than hundreds of automated IT back-office robotic processes, accelerating product development and reducing time to market.
Digitization in retail and self-service touchpoints expanded the rollout of ‘Smart Stores’ by upgrading the current stores. There was an increased focus on driving the subscriber online with a revamp of our portal and application. Transactions today are also seamless with virtual technologies being implemented for consumer transactions. Etisalat’s first new digital store is an illustration of our efforts.
The main pillars of innovation here focused on providing customers a complete digital journey with full mobility, self-service with digital interfaces giving customers the flexibility to purchase packages and products including dispensing of SIM cards.
The culture within our organization is also based on these core values of empowering our employees with innovation and creativity by endorsing various internal initiatives that stimulate and promote corporate-wide innovation. Amongst which was the ‘Liquid Studio’, the company’s ideation and prototyping incubator for people ideas that aims at injecting the use of analytics, robotics, AI, machine learning and big data in almost every aspect of operation. The ‘Hatch’ is another dedicated area created for the staff to raise digital capabilities to empower employees to innovate and prototype ideas, connecting with other labs/innovation hubs, and providing a studio to create digital media content to promote creativity and elevate digital capabilities.
Etisalat Digital continued to foster open innovation with ‘Future Now’, an innovation program that will accelerate the adoption of the latest technologies by collaborating with startups, IoT developers, government entities, enterprises and end users to drive digital transformation.
In collaboration with Dubai Future Accelerators, there were six challenges launched with a participation of 13 scale-ups focusing on UAT (user acceptance testing) automation, multi-cloud, industrial IoT, insurance on demand, AR for site-survey and digital retail. As a member of Fintech Hive, the acceleration program of financial center, DIFC, Etisalat collaborated with banks and insurance companies to identify innovative fintech solutions that can become part of Etisalat Digital portfolio. During this acceleration program, Etisalat Digital mentored and collaborated with more than 20 scale-ups.
Future Now also launched its own challenges with a participation of 10 scale-ups focusing on the enhancement of the customer journey of B2B and SMB. The Open Innovation Center is a dedicated area created by Etisalat which will be a window to the future to witness and experience all this innovation and how Etisalat Digital is driving digital transformation journeys.