Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), the parent company of du, is expecting a 60% increase in capital expenditure (capex) this year to AED 1.6 billion compared to AED 1 billion last year.
The Dubai-based telecom operator has invested AED 181 million in the first three months of this year, witnessing a 74% growth compared to a year ago. Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer of EITC and du, told TechRadar Middle East that du is ramping up preparations for the launch of 5G and to help drive digital transformation.
“Our network is ready for 5G and it is happening much sooner than expected. [However], the handsets and CPE (customer-premises equipment), wireless routers for broadband services, are not available commercially.” he said.
Mr. Sultan believes that at start, speed is going to be the key differentiator for 5G, which will be targeted more towards outdoor coverage rather than indoor. The lower latency part will come at a later stage.
With the likely introduction of 5G in the UAE, Sukhdev Singh, Executive Director at research and consulting services provider Kantar, said that it is expected that service providers would look at new avenues of business growth, which could be driven more by enterprise solutions to begin with.
The operator has signed partnerships with Nokia, Affirmed Networks and MediaTek to launch next-generation Narrow-Band IoT services, which is critical to the successful adoption of 5G technology.
“We are creating a new track of revenue streams by forming alliances, as it will enable devices to deliver a wealth of smart city applications ranging from smart metering, smart parking, trackers, smart health, industrial and agriculture use cases,” Sultan said.
5G holds the key
On the industrial front, Francis Sideco, Vice-President for technology at IHS Markit, said in a statement that 5G will be a key to expanding and realising the full promise of the internet of things (IoT), with the technology’s impact to be felt in smart homes, smart cities and smart industries.
“The world is moving towards digital whether we like or not and we, as a telco, are at the heart of digital transformation. The strategy for this year will be to monetize data usage on the connectivity business, specifically on the pre-paid side, by offering more incentives, and on the enterprise segments,” Sultan said.
According to GSMA Intelligence, publisher of industry reports and research for GSMA, which represents the interests of more than 750 mobile operators globally and over 350 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, 83 per cent of the 9.6 million population in the UAE was pre-paid subscribers in 2018.
The UAE has 18.6 million mobile connections in 2018 with a 194% SIM penetration rate and with an 84% mobile broadband connection.
“We take a long-term view and remain focused on implementing our strategy to drive more efficiency in our core business while capturing new areas of growth through ICT, as we reposition our company for the future of the telecom business,” he said.