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Etisalat aims to be first in the Middle East to deploy 5G technology

Etisalat aims to become the first phone company in the region to deploy high-speed 5G technology, the company’s chief executive said yesterday.

“We will deploy 5G in the coming few years,” said Ahmad Julfar, Etisalat’s group chief executive at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

Mobile generation systems appear almost every 10 years. The 1G system started in 1981, followed by the 2G in 1991, then the 3G system in 2001. The new 5G system could begin to be rolled out around 2021, according to GSMhisory.com website.

But the chief of the UAE’s biggest phone company said a new business model would be needed to roll out capital-intensive 5G services.

“There has to be a revenue- sharing model. 5G deployment will be very expensive,” said Mr Julfar. “Telecom operators are investing hundreds of millions of dollars every year on capital expenditure. You have somebody else who is arriving on this network for free and making money,” he added.

Mr Julfar was referring to global internet companies such as Google and YouTube, which benefit from fast internet services but which do not contribute to their construction costs.

Etisalat invested Dh6 billion to roll-out Long Term Evolution technology, also known as 4G. Telecom operators in the UAE such as du and Etisalat face pressure on their revenue as applications like Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp compete with their voice and SMS revenue streams.

“I think there has to be a new business model between the telecom operators and internet companies,” Mr Julfar said.

“There have to be a cross-sector collaborative model between media firms, telecom operators, and internet firms,” he added.

Etisalat currently operates in 19 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and has around 180 million customers across those countries.



Shereen El Gazzar
Updated: November 18, 2014 08:46 PM
The National