The GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, has forecast that Gulf-based telecom operators will be among the first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks.
The new study said that there will be more than 50 million 5G connections across the MENA region by 2025, with 5G networks covering approximately 30 percent of the region’s population by that point.
The report comes as UAE telco Etisalat broke world records for 5G internet speeds with a live trial at Gitex 2017. The trials will continue in 2018 with a commercial launch set for 2019.
It also highlighted how mobile broadband (3G/4G) networks account for about half of total mobile connections in the MENA region today and are forecast to increase to 70 percent of the total by the end of the decade.
“With rising mobile broadband adoption, growing subscriber numbers and increasing smartphone use, mobile is having an incredible impact across this diverse region, ushering in an era of innovative tech startups and new mobile services, as well as helping to connect the unconnected,” said Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA.
“At the same time, we urge operators to continue investment in 4G networks to ensure future growth and encourage governments to set policies that promote technological, social and economic progress to create a society where all citizens can benefit from mobile technology.”
He said high 4G adoption rates and government support is helping leading operators in the GCC to challenge both North American and Asian operators in driving 5G development.
Both Etisalat and Ooredoo are already undertaking live 5G trials on speed, equipment, latency and beam steering.
The report said that in 2016, the mobile industry contributed more than $ 165 billion to the regional economy, or 4.2 per cent of GDP. This is expected to increase to almost $ 200 billion (4.3 percent of GDP) as countries in the region benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services.