Middle East takes lead in 5G

Globally, seven operators have launched 5G services out of which five are from Middle East countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates

Seven telecom operators in six countries claim they have launched 5G networks in the past two months. These are Elisa Finland, Elisa Estonia, Ooredoo Kuwait, Ooredoo Qatar, STC Saudi Arabia and Etisalat United Arab Emirates. A seventh operator, Zain Kuwait claims it has deployed and is commercially piloting a 5G network in selected locations.

A closer look at all the 5G operators reveal that the majority of 5G operators comes from Middle East Countries. And the reason for early 5G launch in these countries can be attributed to four factors – cash rich oil economy, increased tourism, small geographical area vis-a-vis European countries and cosmopolitan consumer base.

First, the cash rich oil economy of Middle East countries provides operators enough cash to deploy latest technologies and even in 5G technology it is the same. Second, Middle East countries have lots of tourism potential as it is very close to Europe and is also a gateway to Africa from Europe, Asia or America so they have no option but to go for the latest technologies. Third, in terms of area, Middle East countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have small geographical area so testing new technologies is not costly. Fourth, the cosmopolitan residents have enough buying power so consumers in these countries go for latest and best in class technologies.

Global 5G Operators:

Elisa Finland launched 5G services in June 2018 and the service is available in Tampere City Centre. The 5G service uses 100 MHz bandwidth in 3.5 GHz band

Elisa Estonia launched 5G services in June 2018 and the service is available in Talinn City Centre. The 5G service uses 100 MHz bandwidth in 3.5 GHz band

Zain Kuwait deployed 5G services in June 2018 and would be commercially piloting 5G network in select locations

Ooredoo Kuwait launched 5G service in Doha

Ooredoo Qatar launched 5G services in May 2018 with 22 5G network towers. It was planned to go live in the month of June 2018

STC Saudi Arabia launched 5G network in May 2018 but is waiting for 5G devices to test the network

Etisalat United Arab Emirates launched a limited availability commercial 5G Fixed Wireless Access network in May 2018 using 3.3 – 3.8 GHz band. The service was launched in Abu Dhabi with deployments underway in Dubai also.

Source: GSA 

However, the lack of commercially available 5G devices is hindering operators’ efforts to properly launch 5G services. Of those claiming launches, only Elisa (Finland and Estonia) and STC (Saudi Arabia) have confirmed limited device availability. In majority of the cases, the operators are waiting for 5G devices so that they can introduce services properly. According to industry sources, commercial availability of 5G handset are expected in the first quarter or second quarter of 2019.