Education and healthcare sectors benefited the most from the reliability of the network infrastructure during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 and maximise their value, CTO of EITC said.
Saleem Al Blooshi, Chief Technology Officer at EITC, the parent company of du, said at the Gitex Global virtual seminar that du has seen a 40% increase in fixed and mobile traffic and sudden shift from the normal hotspots and business sectors to residential areas in April and May when compared to January.
“Remote learning and remote working have increased. Covid-19 and the lockdown have proven the capabilities and reliabilities of the telecom operators in enabling digital transformation.
“We [telecom operators] are at the core of digital transformation and we usually have a pattern for the demand increase in a year such as New Year, Eid Al Fitr and Edi Al Adha and plan it accordingly with our partners but for the pandemic, we did not have any similar pattern and we did not know who our customers will be,” he said.
Al Blooshi said that du worked with its partners such as Nokia, Huawei and Cisco and were able to cope with the sudden shift and increase in traffic.
Moreover, the Dubai-based telecom operator is celebrating its first anniversary of 5G commercial launch in the UAE on May 7th.
With the non-standalone (NSA) rollout of 5G, he said that only the bandwidth is available in the country and “we were able to scale our network and our application layer for streaming traffic such as Netflix and video communication tools.”
NSA means beaming 5G over the existing 4G infrastructure while standalone (SA) means beaming 5G over the dedicated spectrum and infrastructure.
“The current standard for 5G is NSA and is focusing only on the speed. The standard and the full equipment for SA with IoT capabilities is expected by the end of 2020 or early 2021,” he said.
GSMA adjusts forecast for this year
Telecom operators in the UAE are offering speeds of 1GHz speed now with the non-standalone (NSA) network infrastructure but du’s next milestone is 10GHz speed with the deployment of millimetre wave[26GHz-84Ghz] and achieve one millisecond but it is not possible with the current C band [3.4GHz-3.8GHz] spectrum.
Because the network is NSA, the latency offered currently in 5G space is the same as that of 4G, that is 15-25 milliseconds.
“We are continuing our investment in 5G despite the low adoption of smartphones but by the end of the year, we expect to see handset makers launching more devices. The lockdown will change a lot of situations for operators as well as for the society,” he said.
Jawad Abbassi, head of Middle East and North Africa at GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, said that they have adjusted their global forecasts in the near term to account for the effects of Covid-19 and reduced its 5G cellular connections for 2020 by 24%.
“By the end of 2021, we expect most markets to be within 2% of our original estimate. We are forecasting longer-term reductions in a number of key markets including Italy (12%), France (10%), Spain (8%) and China (5%) by 2025,” he said.
GSMA expects 1.7b 5G cellular connections by 2025, representing 19% of the global connections.
He said that Asia Pacific region will see the largest share of these connections with 63.9%, followed by Europe with 13.3% and North America with 12.4% while Mena will have 47m 5G connections, representing 6% of the total connections.
GSMA said that 10 operators in eight markets have launched 5G services in the first quarter of this year, taking the total number of connections of 5G operators to 62 in 31 markets.